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The Words Matter Act would require appropriate language be used to address people with disabilities

Casey: “We have an obligation to uplift people with disabilities and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect”

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, joined Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) – his fellow co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Task Force – to introduce legislation that would update U.S. code by eliminating the words “mentally retarded” and replacing it with language that better respects the dignity of individuals with disabilities. Companion legislation was introduced in the House last April by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

In 2010, Congress passed Rosa’s Law which eliminated the phrase “mental retardation” from much of federal law. However, the U.S. Code still uses various forms of those words, particularly in laws related to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. The Words Matter Act would replace the term with “persons of moderate intellectual disabilities.”

“As public officials, we have an obligation to uplift people with disabilities and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” said Senator Casey. “I’m proud to join with Senator Moran on this bipartisan bill to remove derogatory language from our laws and courts, and am committed to continuing to fight on behalf of Americans with disabilities.”

“Individuals with disabilities deserve to be respected and valued,” said Senator Moran. “Language that is degrading to individuals with disabilities should be eliminated from our laws and courts. This legislation makes certain the courts are using language that is both accurate and appropriate and maintains the dignity of all people.”

Senator Casey has long been a leader of efforts in the Senate to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and maltreatment. In 2011, he co-sponsored Rosa’s Law, the initial law which eliminated the phrase “mental retardation” from federal statutes. In 2014, Casey led the passage of legislation establishing the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program, which created tax-advantaged savings programs for eligible people with disabilities. Casey has also spearheaded efforts to increase the availability of affordable, accessible housing and improve the accessibility of government technology programs.