Two bills have been filed this session addressing the use of respectful language when referring to people with disabilities – SB 26 by Senator Zaffirini and HB 1481 by Rep. Truitt. These are important bills as the language we use reflects our values and influences our attitudes toward people with disabilities, including those experiencing mental health challenges. The stated intent of the bill is to establish preferred terms and phrases for new and revised laws by requiring use of language that places the person before the disability.
Specifically, the bills:
- Direct the legislature and the Texas Legislative Council to avoid using certain demeaning terms and phrases
- Direct that as statutes and resolutions are passed, hurtful and demeaning language must be replaced by respectful language
- Direct HHSC to ensure that agencies use person first respectful language when proposing, adopting, or amending agency rules, reference materials, or publications
- Direct the commission to review HHS agencies and make recommendations regarding the statutory revisions necessary to replace the phrase “mental retardation” with “intellectual disabilities”
HB 1481 (Truitt) was the billed that worked through the process and passed both houses. It has been sent to the governor for signature!
To learn more about using respectful language see the Hogg Foundation’s recently published brochure, Language Matters in Mental Health at http://www.hogg.utexas.edu/initiatives/language_matters.html.