Historic Change Removes the ‘R’ Word from State Agency Name, Statute and Regulations
Governor David A. Paterson today signed into law a bill which changes the name of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) to the New York State Office For People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The historic legislation removed the words “Mental Retardation” from the name of the State agency and from State statute and regulations, and will take effect immediately.
“This name change sends a strong message that New York values the dignity and respect of individuals with developmental disabilities” Governor Paterson said. “For many people with developmental disabilities the words ‘mental retardation’ are hurtful and represent a disrespectful term. The Office For People With Developmental Disabilities is a name that respects their rights as people with developmental disabilities to have an agency name that invokes pride, and not shame.”
This has been the culmination of several efforts over the last few years to change the agency’s name. Most recently, a stakeholder meeting was convened with parents, advocates, providers and individuals with developmental disabilities. There was overwhelming agreement that the time had come to remove the “R” word. Stakeholders and representatives from across the State gathered together to come to the OPWDD consensus.
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 name change will not result in any new cost for the agency or the State Financial Plan. Implementation of the name change will be gradual to avoid new costs, with the new name phased in as part of normal replacement costs. New signage is not needed for the agency’s regional Developmental Disabilities Services Offices (DDSOs) since their names will not be changed.
The following statements were provided in support of the name change for OPWDD:
Assemblyman Felix Ortiz said: “Signing this legislation into law today is a step in the right direction. Those with disabilities should not be defined by the stigma that society has attached to labels and terms. I am proud to have been a part of a movement to remove stigma and barriers to care.”
Marc Brandt, Executive Director of NYSARC, Inc., said: “As the organization that initiated the idea of a separate office for persons with developmental disabilities nearly half a century ago, we applaud the Governor and the Legislature for a successful initiative that keeps with the tradition of dignity and respect that our families and their loved ones have fought to maintain for so many decades.”