Thursday, January 07, 2010

Splitting Hairs to Make People Feel Good

Here in the Washington State legislature we've had a bill recently introduced. 40 pages long, here's the gist of what it does:
(2)(a) The code reviser is directed to avoid all references to: Disabled, developmentally disabled, mentally disabled, mentally ill, mentally retarded, handicapped, cripple, and crippled, in any new statute, memorial, or resolution, and to change such references in any existing statute, memorial, or resolution as sections including these references are otherwise amended by law.

b) The code reviser is directed to replace terms referenced in (a) of this subsection as appropriate with the following revised terminology: "Individuals with disabilities," "individuals with developmental disabilities," "individuals with mental illness," and "individuals with intellectual disabilities."
What's the point?

I get the debate over people-first terminology, and I'm all for ridding the world of words like retard and all its derivatives. I come at this as the father of a deaf child--not a child with deafness, a deaf child--who thinks it's absolutely a waste of time and effort for us to spend more time on the label than we on real support.

Look above; my daughter's official diagnosis is developmental delay caused by gestational exposure to cytomegalovirus. She's developmentally delayed. There's meaning in that. Changing the phrasing to "child with develpmental disabilities" doesn't make her condition any clearer, it doesn't change who she is, and it doesn't change how anyone would respond to her needs. Why spend legislative time on something so meaningless?

Update (1/10): I guess the legislature can find even more ridiculous ways to waste their time.

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