Beginning September 2013, the Social Security Administration replaced the outdated term “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual disability” in it’s regulations. The change is consistent with the modern adoption of the concept of intellectual impairment as a recognized disability, rather than a stigma or slur. The term has been adopted by the U.S. Congress, many government agencies at the State and Federal level and a myriad of public and private organizations. SSA recognized that the term “mental retardation” has negative connotations and is offensive to many people, not unlike a racial or ethnic slur. The original Congressional change of the term originated with “Rosa’s Law’ in 2010.
The adoption of the term, “intellectual disability” in no way amends the substantive law regarding the administration or granting of Social Security Disability benefits. It is only a change in terminology. Notwithstanding, these basic changes go a long way with the widely expressed desire of people with intellectual disability for usage of respectful language. The change was praised by many national organizations representing professionals practicing in the field, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Social Security Disability Attorney Randy Zeldin, Esq., of Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Lake Worth , and West Palm Beach, Florida, also lauds the Social Security Administration for respect of the intellectually impaired.