On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law into effect. Although the day came and went without a huge amount of fan fare, it was a historic day for both our country and for the Marcellinos family, whose daughter Rosa is the face behind the law.
Rosa has Down syndrome, and when her school labeled her as mentally retarded, her family began their mission to remove the word retarded from government language. Their quest began in their home state of Maryland with big brother Nick speaking up for his sister in front of state government officials. The fight then moved to Washington, where the family’s goal was finally reached. The word retarded would be changed to intellectually disabled in all federal health, labor and education laws.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act was written in 1990, those with intellectual disabilities were given new rights which would be protected under law, but the term retarded was still used to describe them. Today, retarded has become an overused word across the country as people use it to describe themselves after making a mistake or to describe something that they don’t like. The word carries negative connotations, and its time in American culture has finally come to its long-awaited end.
Along with the Marcellinos, groups like Spread the Word to End the Word have been working diligently to remove the word retarded from our everyday language. Nearly 141,000 people have taken the pledge to end their use of the word retarded and are spreading the news through t-shirts and bumper stickers. The Special Olympics has gotten onboard as well. It has become a civil rights movement that is long overdue.
As for the Marcellino family, they are moving forward with life, excited by the fact that their daughter will no longer carry the label of retarded. Rosa won’t have to be embarrassed by that word and neither will their other three children who hear it used on the playground quite regularly. It will probably take some time before the word is removed from the streets, but with the government backing up the change, and more and more people taking the pledge, the children of the future will hopefully never even know the word.