Mentally retarded; replaces term with intellectually disabled. (SB687)

Introduced By

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Replacing "mentally retarded" with "intellectually disabled." Replaces the term "mentally retarded" with the term "intellectually disabled" and replaces the term "mental retardation" with the term "intellectual disability" throughout the Code of Virginia. Read the Bill »


01/17/2008: Merged into SB620


01/15/2008Presented and ordered printed 088550248
01/15/2008Referred to Committee on Education and Health
01/17/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB687)
01/17/2008Incorporated by Education and Health (SB620-Ticer) (12-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: HB760.


Alison Hymes writes:

Great, but also ban the use of the term "behavioral health" instead of mental health or psychiatry throughout the code of Virginia while we're at it. Behavioral health is an extremely offensive and backwards term for mental health.

Timothy Watson writes:

Wow, the state doesn't have the money for Commonwealth's Attorneys' offices to be converted to full-time but they can spend $75,000 for this stupidity?

These legislators are "mentally retarded" and/or "intellectually disabled".

What next? Removing any reference to the "criminal" code or to "crimes"?

Alison Hymes writes:

Nice, comparing people with disabilities to criminals.

Tim McCormack writes:

I can't support this. "Mental retardation" is perfectly descriptive, and "intellectually disabled" is too PC for my tastes.

Alison Hymes writes:

What does PC even mean in this context Tim McCormack? And of course it's all about what is to your taste and not about the wishes of people who actually have intellectual disabilities and their families. So you won't mind if I call you George will you? George is a name more to my taste than Tim.

Tim McCormack writes:

What's in a name, Alison? We both agree that names and labels are important, and important to get right. Calling something what it ain't just leads to trouble.

"Mental retardation" means that an individual's central nervous system is, in some aspect or many, operating at reduced or deleteriously altered capacity.

What does "intellectual disability" mean? Surely not the same thing. Could it refer to someone who cannot follow a logical argument against one of their articles of faith? I would say so. And yet that's *certainly* not mental retardation.

My intent is not to diminish, brush aside, or avoid the issue. I just want to make sure that the language is reasonable.

Alison Hymes writes:

Actually, developmental disability has been the term in use for many years in the field, not mental retardation but Virginia never caught up with that either. Mental retardation doesn't really mean anything. There are many causes of intellectual disabilities as meant in this statute, including chromosonal, unknown origin at birth, some forms of severe autism, brain damage at birth due to lack of oxygen, fragile X syndrome and on and on. Mental retardation has become a term that is used to insult people and is not in line with the terms used for other people with disabilities. Just as we don't have a department of Mental Health and Drunkeness, we shouldn't have a department of mental health and mental retardation.

The language is reasonable because it is accepted and wanted by the members of the community it applies to and by their family members and by their allies. Of course some people will use the term perjoratively and inappropriately just as some people will call politicians they disagree with mentally ill, but that is no reason for the state of Virginia not to catch up with the times.

Timothy Watson writes:

Alison, you bloody well know what I meant by that statement.

This bill is nothing but a check for $75,000 to make the bill sponsors and supporters feel good. They can say, "We care and you don't!"

Instead of spending $75,000 on something useful like additional funding for treatment and support for persons with mental retardation, they want to use it to change the wording on figureheads and in the Code of Virginia.

How exactly does that help persons with mental retardation and their families? Is it going to change how the family feels? Does it change the circumstances that the family is in?

Alison Hymes writes:

People with intellectual disabilities and their families asked for this bill because they said it will make them feel better. I take their word for it.

But at the last minute, the bill was amended to require it to be passed again next year in order to go into effect, so you win for this year. George :).