After constant reminders from advocates for disabled people, the Social Security Administration will finally be moving into the 21st century with some of its terminology, dropping the term "mental retardation" for "intellectual disability."
Social Security disability benefits are available for people who are intellectually disabled. Imagine how degrading it would feel to have a government agency use a term that for years has been deemed a pejorative against people with intellectual disabilities. Why should you be labeled something like that for a condition that you have no control over?
In a proposed rulemaking published recently, the Social Security Administration announced that it would make the move after hearing from advocates about the "negative connotations" and "misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it."
More than two years ago, Congress passed legislation that all federal health, education and labor laws would use the term "intellectual disability." The Social Security Administration did not fall under the law's jurisdiction, however.
Beneficiaries should not be worried about the language change affecting their benefits. This is a simple language change in Social Security laws and documents. A CEO of an organization that advocates for children with intellectual disabilities said the announcement was a "critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights."
A proposed regulation in 2010 contained language calling for the adoption of the term "intellectual disability," but the broader proposed rule has never moved forward. The newly proposed rule will have a 30-day public comment period. People who work with intellectually disabled Social Security beneficiaries should let the SSA know how much this announcement is needed.
Source: Disability Scoop, "Social Security Proposes Dropping 'Mental Retardation'," Michelle Diament, Jan. 29, 2013