mentally retarded, mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled

The terms mentally retarded, retard and mental retardation were once common terms that are now considered outdated and offensive. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed a measure known as “Rosa’s Law” that replaced the term mental retardation with intellectual disability in many areas of government, including federal law. Always try to specify the type of disability being referenced. Otherwise, the terms mental disability, intellectual disability and developmental disability are acceptable. Use people-first language.

For example, instead of using the mentally disabled as a collective noun, use people with mental disabilities. At times, words that are considered outdated may be appropriate because of the story’s historical context.  In those cases, attribute the term or note its historic use. Example: The doctor said he was retarded, a term widely used at the time.


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