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New York City Council Seeks To Abolish The ‘R-Word’

Council Instead Wants To Use The Term 'Developmentally Disabled'
City Hall in Lower Manhattan (file / credit: Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork)

City Hall in Lower Manhattan (file / credit: Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City Council has announced plans to banish the use of the expression “mentally retarded” from all official documents and Web sites.

The council wants instead to use the term “developmentally disabled.”

Councilman David Greenfield (D-44th) was set to introduce the bill to remove the “derogatory term” on Wednesday.

He told the New York Daily News “people use it in an insulting way.”

He said the legislation would bring the city in line with the state and federal governments, where the term was changed years ago.

Use of the “r-word” has fallen into strong disfavor in recent years, particularly when the words “retard” and “retarded” are used in a demeaning and hurtful way.

The Special Olympics urges everyone to take a pledge to end the use of the r-word, and has campaigned for the end of the use of the word everywhere from the playground to the White House.

When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the White House chief of staff, he found himself apologizing to Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver for calling liberal activists “f***ing retards” during a private meeting. The remark drew a strong rebuke from anchorman Rob Johnson of WBBM-TV, CBS 2 Chicago.

“As many of you know, I have a brother with Down syndrome, and have railed against the use of the r-words for years,” Johnson said in a 2010 commentary. “I’ve tried to remind people that there are plenty of words that are taboo in society, and that these hurtful words are on that horrible list.”

Meanwhile, Shriver called use of the word “retard” hate speech, saying it disparages the 3.5 million athletes who have participated in the Special Olympics.

“The word ‘retard’ has become the symbol of the idea that they don’t count,” he told WBBM Newsradio in Chicago last year.

The term “mentally retarded” has been used as an official diagnosis since the late 20th century. Prior to that time, the terms “moron,” “imbecile” and “idiot” were used as official diagnostic terms for those with developmental disabilities.

Do you think it’s time for the “r-word” to be abolished from official city documents? Leave your comments below…

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)