Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ban Use of the R Word - by Marsha Hockensmith, Director, Kentucky Protection & Advocacy

Kentucky Protection and Advocacy (P&A) is a client-directed legal rights agency that protects and promotes the rights of persons with disabilities.  P&A is an independent state agency, and it derives its authority from both federal and state law; specifically the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) 42 U.S.C. § 6000 et. seq.; the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI Act) 42 U.S.C. §10801 et. seq.; and Kentucky Revised Statute 31.010 (2).

Kentucky P&A receives part of its funding from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, the Center for Mental Health Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Social Security Administration. 

Kentucky P&A is a member of the National Disability Rights Network NDRN, a nonprofit umbrella organization to which all 57 protection and advocacy systems belong.

Congress gave P&As the authority to access individuals with disabilities, their records and the locations where they receive services and supports to investigate abuse and neglect, monitor facilities, provide information and referral services, and pursue legal and other remedies on their behalf.

I was thrilled when Linda Horseman, DPA Appeals Attorney, contacted me about the continued need for education regarding the use of the “R-word”.  As we P&A types had long since moved away from the use of this hurtful and demeaning word,  I had forgotten that not all live in our world..., and appreciated the needed reminder from Linda.  I was privileged at the opportunity to work alongside an advocate, and mother of a child with a disability, to try and educate all that use of the “R-word” is unacceptable.

On the final day and in the final hours of the 2012 legislative session, House Bill (HB) 485, the bill to ban the use of the “R-word”, was approved by members of the legislature. HB 485 was signed by Governor Beshear on April 18, 2012. 

House Bill 485 created a new section of KRS Chapter 446 to provide that the Kentucky Revised Statutes shall no longer utilize the terms "mental retardation" or "mentally retarded" or abbreviations that use the letters "MR" to signify mental retardation or mentally retarded; set forth terms that shall be used instead, including "intellectual disability," "intellectual disabilities," "individual with an intellectual disability," "individuals with an intellectual disability," "individual with a serious intellectual disability," or "individuals with a serious intellectual disability"; change the names of ICF/MRs to ICF/IDs to the extent permitted by federal law.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Lesley Reising, member of the Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) Advisory Board, as told to Jeff Edwards, PADD Program Coordinator.

Lesley:  My name is Lesley Reising and I am from the great state of Kentucky, I was born in Richmond and now I live in Richmond.

Lesley, you are an extremely busy person.  Provide a few examples of how busy you are.

Lesley:  Right now I am getting ready to run two 5Ks in March.  I volunteer with ABLE of Lexington.  There I work in the office and do home repairs, too.  We repair homes of senior citizens and people with disabilities.  I help through tear down, rebuilding and finishing.  I do lawn maintenance there, too. I also went to Africa and helped build a two block school.

Lesley, what is a two block school?  

A block is a room.  We put in plumbing and electricity there; most schools don’t have plumbing or electricity. I worked in two villages in Africa; I collected clothes, toys, and school supplies to take with us.  I collect supplies all the time.  Right now I am getting ready to go to Belize to work on an orphanage.

Lesley, you spend most of your free time helping people.  Why?

Lesley:  I volunteer because people need help.

Lesley, tell us how you have fought for your rights in Frankfort.

Lesley:   I have been a fighter all of my life, from breaking down doctor’s predictions of my life expectancy, to beating cancer, and to fighting for my rights in our state capitol.

I worked hard to get legislators and Governor Beshear to ban use of the “R-word”. I worked with staff from the Governor’s office, staff from the behavioral health and developmental/intellectual disabilities and other advocates to ban use of the “R” word.

Lesley, what do you mean when you say the “R-word”? 

Lesley:  Retarded.

Why was it important to ban use of the “R-word”?

Lesley:  I am an advocate, an activist, a volunteer, a presenter, a board member, an office holder and an athlete.  I would like for people to be referred to or called by their names, and not called “retarded”. 

Lesley, you were there the day Governor Beshear signed the ban of the use of the “R word” into law, correct?

Lesley:  I sure was and I yelled “yee- haw”, I am a Kentucky mountain gal.

For more information see  R-word | Spread the Word to End the Word