Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently signed into law finally removing derogatory language about disabled people from state law.
Advocates applauded the enactment and signature of the Mental Health and Disability Terminology Act, introduced with bipartisan sponsorship as House Bill 281.
The bill, which has been in the making for years, removes words that were still part of the Ohio Revised Code, such as “idiot,” “madman,” and “crazy.”
Katherine Yoder, executive director of Ohio’s Center for Adult Advocacy, said: “It’s one of the most obvious ways language changes as society…and as people’s humanity evolves.”
When work on the bill began in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2021, legislators reacted by surprise, largely because they thought the changes had already been made.
State agencies were renamed in 2009, removing the word “mental retardation” from county and state agencies, but the wording remained in the revised code.
Yoder says it’s common to think that these language changes were made to eliminate words commonly known as derogatory terms, but that they’re not directly related to people with disabilities. Those who do not cooperate may miss changes that have not been made.
So when an attempt to remove the language was put together in 2021, Yoder was relieved to find legislative push led by the organization doing the work. Yoder said it’s one thing to support the movement and take the lead, even if you don’t know the world people with disabilities live in.
“It’s another thing to step back and allow that community or that cultural group to make the necessary changes and advocate for themselves,” says Yoder.
Part of the bill’s journey through the Ohio House and Senate was to educate lawmakers at committee meetings. HB 281 passed the House quickly with his Dontavius Jarrells, D-Columbus, and Tom Young, R-Washington Twp, in state legislators. Take control.
“It’s definitely something to seek, something to learn,” Yoder said.
The legislation was enforced by many organizations, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio Association of Behavioral Health Officials, Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, Ohio Disability Rights, Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition.
“Emphasizing an individual’s humanity and personality rather than defining it solely by specific characteristics promotes understanding and inclusion. and more equitable access to the interests of civil society,” said director of government relations for the Ohio Commission on Developmental Disabilities during the Senate Health Committee’s November meeting.
Language is especially important at the Adult Advocacy Center, where we work with crime victims who have developmental disabilities. According to Yoder, language is a “basic element” for avoiding disrespect for individuals, and fairness is hard to achieve when the Ohio Revised Code can be quoted with outdated language. .
Yoder said there are gaps in criminal justice training to investigate crimes in which victims have disabilities. From speaking with victims to creating accessibility for those participating in court proceedings, many layers of change were required, starting with enabling victims to be heard.
“The justice system was never set up with people with disabilities in mind,” Yoder said.
With the language change approved, advocates want to push for more changes, such as increased representation of criminal justice by forensic interviewers specially trained to assist people with disabilities through criminal cases. I think.
“The goal or focus[of forensic interviews]is not to help people with developmental disabilities find their voices,” Yoder said. is to be heard.”
As the years go by, advocates also want to receive a portion of the remaining American Rescue Plan funds to help build facilities for advocacy efforts and to tackle crimes such as profit trafficking. increase.
This article was originally published in Ohio Capital Journal.