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Governor Signs ‘Words Do Matter’ Bill

Pennsylvania Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County) launched his effort to pass the "Words Do Matter" bill a year and a half ago when people with disabilities in his district asked him and other county residents to sign a pledge not to use the terms "retarded" or "retardation."

"Then, based on that pledge, [I] put together the legislation that ultimately was unanimously approved by the Senate and the House, and that the governor is signing today," said Dinniman outside a bill-signing ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday.

"That's not political correctness, that is real progress, because the names we use reflect who we are as a people," said Dinniman.

Advocates of the law said that many individuals do not understand the importance, but when people use stereotypic and dehumanizing language regarding people with disabilities, we are prone to then treat those individuals differently.

"Negative language leads to negative attitudes and subsequent discriminatory behavior," said Bill Chrisner of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, who was also at the bill signing.

With the signing of the bill, Pennsylvania joins a growing list of states that have removed the terms from official usage, including Massachusetts and New Jersey. The federal government has a similar law dubbed "Rosa's Law," which is named after Rosa Marcellino. At the time, she was a nine-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had worked to pass the law in Maryland.