Council seeks change to language on disability

A Philadelphia City Council committee passed a bill Tuesday to remove all references to the term “mental retardation” from the city code and replace it with “intellectual disability.”

The move, if approved by the entire Council, would bring the city in line with a similar change made in federal and state laws in 2010 and 2011.

“This is a very simple and straight forward issue,” said Councilman Dennis O’Brien, who sponsored the bill and chaired the committee. “The R-word is a pejorative term we use when we want to demean.”

Kathy Foy, from the non-profit group Vision for Equality, told the committee that “mental retardation” was a “medical term with clinical connotations no longer in use.” Instead, the phrase has morphed in common usage into a “slur meant to offend.”

“We all know words have power,” she said. “They have the power to hurt.”

The measure passed the committee unanimously.

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