Letter: Labels are for soup cans, not people
On Oct. 6, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law Rosa’s Law. Rosa’s Law will change references in federal law from "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability," and references to a "mentally retarded individual" to an "individual with an intellectual disability." The General Assembly of Virginia took a similar step two years ago, after advocacy groups and individuals with disabilities themselves called for the removal of the "R" word from the Code of Virginia.
Before the federal or state government acted, the Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Services Board’s Mental Retardation Division changed its named to the Division of Community Options. The division was one of the first in the state to make this name change. The Division of Community Options has multiple programs and services that assist citizens of our community that have intellectual disabilities.
As one advocate put it, "Labels are for soup cans, not people." The removal of this word from our government language is certainly a significant step. However, even more significant will be the day when it will no longer be part of our everyday language.
The day when the average citizen stops using the "R" word or when our children and adolescents stop using it as a derogatory descriptor of a person. The day when it will not roll easily off of our tongues, but rather all of us will be aware of the hurt that it can cause and so we will lock it away somewhere in that place in our brains where those kinds of words stay forever. Now that day will most definitely be significant.
Words can be helpful or hurtful. We all know the difference. Labels are for soup cans, not people.
Lynnie J. McCrobie, LCSW
Director of Community Options Division
Middle Peninsula Northern Neck
Community Services Board