On February 26,1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law that March would be designated as “National Developmental Disabilities Month.” At the time, President Reagan called for the American people to build understanding and encouragement and to provide new opportunities for people who have developmental difficulties and disabilities. People with developmental disabilities are capable of leading fulfilling, productive lives but may need help from society and government.
The initial proclamation came about because the word “retardation” has negative and hurtful connotations. In addition to proclaiming March as “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month,” the name of the agency dealing with issues related to developmental disabilities was changed from “The Office of Mental Retardation” to its current title, “The Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.”
In recent years, President Barack Obama signed a law, dubbed “Rosa’s law”, which removes terms such as “retarted” from previous federal legislation. Unfortunately, changing terminology does not adequately address the complex issues concerning individuals with developmental disabilities. The removal of derogatory labeling is a small step forward for the disabled community.