As of July 13, 2010, the Great State of New York no longer has an “New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD)” — and that is great, historic, news.  The New York State days of officially propagating the “Ugly Laws” are over.

The old OMRDD is now “The New York State Office For People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).”  Here’s the new logo and the re-designed website is magnificent and positive.

Here’s why the language change was overdue and necessary:

OPWDD Commissioner Diana Jones Ritter: “The time has finally come for New York to join the 48 other states that have dropped the ‘R’ word. I want to assure everyone that our name may be changing, but who we are and what we do stays the same: We have and will always provide top quality supports and services to people and families. I would like to commend Governor Paterson for his efforts ensuring that this name change would be achieved.”

The new name eliminates the stigmatizing language which was part of the agency’s name and instead reflects the Office’s guiding principle of “Putting People First.” It is consistent with the Person First language law, which was enacted in 2007 and which mandates that in statutory language, we place the emphasis on the people we serve, not their disabilities.

In addition, New York State had the unfortunate coincidence of being one of two remaining states in the nation to include the phrase “mental retardation” in its formal lexicon. That is no more! And we take pride in that fact.

Rhode Island is the other holdout State as revealed in a Google search:

But wait!  Is Rhode Island really still standing alone?

Clicking on the first link in my Google Search return took me here —


Here’s the new Rhode Island logo and title:

— here’s the explanation for the change:

The name of this Department has been officially changed to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. The name change continues our fight against the stigmatization of people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders and addictions. With the name change Rhode Island becomes one of a number of states that are removing the “R word” from their departments serving individuals with developmental disabilities.

The name change reflects our commitment to assuring access to quality services and supports for Rhode Islanders with developmental disabilities, mental health and substance abuse issues, and chronic long term medical and psychiatric conditions; and our mission to address and erase the stigma attached to these disabilities as well as planning for the development of new services and prevention activities.

What a great day for humanity!

“Retard” is still pervasive in the colloquial mindset — the “R-word” is regularly used on Big Brother 12 to describe other houseguests — and when a State officially presses forward that memeingful label in public, the derogatory term is given extended life in its government sponsorship.

By removing the “Retard” from official State language — both New York and Rhode Island — have now made it easier to mete out corrections against the insult in the real world, on the street, and in the classroom.


  1. It’s about time, David! So glad they changed that — yet I still hear friends and colleagues using that word as though it were No Big Deal. It is! It may be the only thing about which I agree with Sarah P*lin.

    1. Yes! State-sponsored prejudice is never a good thing, Gordon. It’s About Time!

      It is so unfortunate when the word is invoked. It isn’t funny and it has always been inappropriate even though some people online are claiming these changes will make them use the word even more just because they disagree with what NYState did. Ugh.

      As for Ms. P*lin — she’s right and nobody can question her integrity or experience on the matter.

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