Gov. Hochul signs bill removing “mentally retarded” from state use

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law Tuesday removing “mentally retarded” as an official term from state statutes that police everything from alleged crimes to the arts.

“Numerous Sections of New York State Law [describe] People with disabilities as mentally retarded. We have evolved from this. That’s a stigma we can move away from,” Hochul said at a news conference in Midtown.

State legislation on issues such as crime, social services, education, the arts and family law should use “developmentally disabled” and similar terms instead of “mentally retarded” or “mentally disabled,” according to two bills sponsored by state Senator Roxanne Persaud (D-Brooklyn ) and MP Thomas Abinanti (D-Westchester).

Proponents say the replacement of the outdated terminology represents a major boost for people with developmental disabilities, along with three other bills signed into law by Hochul on Wednesday that collectively aim to help people live more fruitful lives.

Some disabled people in need of assistance may qualify for “assisted decision-making” as an alternative legal status to another person’s official guardianship, according to a legal memorandum outlining a third new law.

Hochul signs the bill
Gov. Hochul on Tuesday signed legislation removing the phrase “mentally retarded” from the country’s official language.
GN Miller/NY Post

“We all make better decisions after making some bad decisions, right? This is part of the human experience and the Assisted Decision Making Bill is truly a landmark bill,” said Rep. Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) of the bill she is discussing with Senate Disability Committee Chair John Mannion (D-Syracuse ), sponsored.

Hochul holds up the bill
The measure replaces the outdated term “developmentally disabled”.
GN Miller/NY Post

The bill will be signed into law on the 32nd anniversary of President George HW Bush signing the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“At the time, Congress recognized that people with disabilities have historically been isolated and marginalized and that discrimination against people with disabilities remains a serious and pervasive social problem. And while we’ve made progress, too much of the ADA’s promise hasn’t been fulfilled,” added Simon.

Another new bill — sponsored by Rep. Aileen Gunther (D-Catskills) and State Senator Samra Brouk (D-Rochester) — removes a state residency requirement for a program that helps people save money related to spending to cover with disabilities such as health care without loss entitlement to other social benefits such as Social Security.

A public awareness campaign authorized by a fifth new law aims to combat stigma and stereotypes that dwarf people with developmental disabilities.

“These new laws will make our state more inclusive. It will fight stigmas that have long been part of our culture and need to go away. And it will also ensure that those who need services have a voice in their own care and in their own life choices,” Mannion said Wednesday at the Midtown event. Gov. Hochul signs bill removing “mentally retarded” from state use


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