Rally backs bills to 'End the R-word' in state law

March 8, 2013 

Patricia Moody, 29, will tell you she’s fluent in sign language, she’s a violinist, singer, big fan of movies and by the way, she also has down syndrome.

She also wants you to know that “When someone makes fun of you, it’s something you remember for a very long time.”

That’s why Moody, of Vero Beach, was among scores of kids, adults and advocates at a rally Thursday in the Capital rotunda as part of a campaign called “End the R-word” in Florida. For the third year, they’re also trying to change state law.

The groups back Senate Bill 142, sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, and House Bill 1119, sponsored by Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, which would remove all references to mental retardation in state law and replace them with intellectual disability.

The Senate bill has passed one committee and is now in the Criminal Justice Committee. The House bill has been referred to the Healthy Families Subcommittee.

“Thirty-nine states have changed names and it’s time for Florida to do the same, Adkins told the group.

Michelle Poole, president of The Arc of Florida said federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress passed and President Obama signed Rosa’s Law.

“We use the proper term, we give the proper respect,” Altman said.

The Arc had its own name changes. Formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens, the group is now just The Arc, not an acronym.

The speakers said one word can make a difference. “When I was growing up, kids picked on me,” said Moira Rossi of Jacksonville, who has down syndrome. “Today even though I’m an adult it still happens. People call me the r-word. This makes me feel sad and bullied. But we now have an opportunity to change that.” Changing the law can help change attitudes, the advocates said. “I don’t want to be called that r-word,” Moody said. “I want respect.”

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