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House Bill 88 Signed Into Law: Alaska Bans 'R' Word

Monday, June 3, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska – Representative Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, released the following statement today thanking Governor Parnell for signing House Bill 88 into law at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Special Olympics Alaska building today. The bill prohibits the use of the “r word” in Alaska Statute and replaces it with “intellectual and developmental disability.”

HB 88 passed both houses unanimously, with twenty five co-sponsors in the House and eighteen in the Senate. “When the public constantly sees signs of division in their elected officials, it is wonderful, and hopeful, that we as lawmakers can come together and have a unified voice in support of respect for human dignity,” Millett said. “By replacing outmoded terms that are offensive and degrading from the language of our government. The State of Alaska tells residents that it will set the bar of how we regard those who are the most vulnerable in our society.”

The State of Alaska uses the “r word” in over twenty statutes and dozens of regulations related to services, medical needs and education. Residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities that had to interact with the state had to confront being legally designated as the “r word” on a constant basis.

“Although the “r word” used to be the clinical term that was used with good intentions, that is no longer the case. Instead, it has become a term used widely in our society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities,” Senator Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, who filed the companion bill in the Senate, said. “We believe that it is time for us to be more inclusive and respectful by using terms that are ‘people first’ in our state laws and other official communications.”

With the passage of House Bill 88, Alaska joins over forty other states as well as the federal government in using “people first” language in state statutes. “We send a message today that words do matter,” Millett said.

 

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