Minnesotans Want Old Words Out, Respectful Words In
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 27, 2005
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA--Well, as Minnesota native Bob Dylan once said, "The times they are a'changin'."
And, if Minnesota advocates have their wish, so will the language in state laws that still describe some citizens as "idiots", "retarded" and "insane".
Advocates with the Minnesota State Council on Disability, the Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living, and others joined state Senator Sheila Kiscaden on Thursday to announce a proposal to get rid of out-dated language considered offensive by many people and replace it with more respectful wording.
"Words do hurt and they do have meaning," Kiscaden said at a press conference surrounded by disability advocates. "When you start using that language differently it changes your thinking about people."
Kiscaden is sponsoring the measure, along with Representative Joe Opatz.
"We just can't speak enough about how we want to be looked at as people first, and then if you have to you can look at our disabilities," said Joan Willshire, executive director of the Council on Disability, "but this is truly a great day for us to be called people with disabilities."
Advocate Karen Lover said: "People have been calling me names no matter where you go. I have a disability. I'm not retarded."
"You can't even walk down the street without people calling you a name," she added. "Please stop calling us names. It's not right . . . Please call me Karen, not those names."
Some of the other objectionable words that would be struck reportedly include "crazy", "birth defect", "feeble-minded", "mute", "crippled", "deformed", and "handicapped". They would be replaced with phrases such as "blind", "deaf", "without speech", "disabled" and "person with disabilities".
Last March, the Washington state Legislature -- following lobbying efforts by disability rights advocates -- overwhelmingly passed a "Respectful Language" bill. It requires language in state laws to be changed as they are updated or rewritten.
"Updating the Language of State Statutes" (KARE 11)
"Bill would remove outdated disability terms from state laws" (Associated Press via Pioneer Press)
"Respectful Language Victory In State of Washington" (Inclusion Daily Express -- March 16, 2004)