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Bills call for erasing the 'R-word' from Michigan laws

A bipartisan package of bills to remove words like "mentally retarded" from all state laws is working its way through the Michigan Legislature.

The words will be replaced with more respectful terms like "intellectually or developmentally disabled."

Lois Arnold is director of Special Olympics Michigan. She supports the bills, which were recommended by the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission.

Arnold says what she calls the "R-word" is stigmatizing and frequently intended to demean and hurt.

"People now are using that word in society today to degrade  and insult people with intellectual disabilities," she said. "They're words that are synonymous for the word 'dumb' or ' stupid' when they're trying to make reference to somebody with disabilities."

Arnold says after the bills' passage, Michigan will be aligned with all but six other states that have eliminated the word "retarded" from their laws.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom