Ending the 'R-word' in Florida

9:12 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Florida (WTLV) -- Mora Rossi, 25, has Down Syndrome and hates the "R-word."

"People get pushed around a lot because they're different," she said.

Rossi, who completed high school and a transition program at the University of North Florida, said her disability does not define her.

"I don't think as myself as a person hearing the 'R-word,'" said Rossi, "I think of myself as a person who want to change the world."

She wants the word retardation replaced with the phrase "intellectual disability."

"When I hear 'R,' I feel threatened," she said.

Rossi is now using YouTube and other ways to get the word out. Bernadette Moran, her mother, supports the effort.

"The word 'retardation' has just a pejorative connotation to it," said Moran. 

Moran's commitment is also shown in her employment. She works at The Arc Jacksonville where they help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities fulfill their lives.

"Changing attitudes is what we want to do in the long run," said Moran,"and that has to start with the people who lead and run our country."

She said if the word is removed from the law, it the first step in changing how society looks at individuals with an intellectual disability.

"They shouldn't be categorized with a word that is actually used to insult people," said Moran.

Charlotte Temple is an advocate for the Arc Jacksonville and is convinced the Florida legislature will remove the word from all state statues.

See Also: End the R-Word in Florida

"This has been an advocate's dream for many years," said Temple, "for many families and individuals with disabilities, the 'R-word' has became known as a bad word, slang."

Thirty-nine states have done it. 

Temple said the proposal is moving through the legislature and advocates are pushing because they're tired of the label.

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