A package of bills that Gov. Jay Nixon says is about "dignity and practicality" for the 100,000 Missouri individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability is now law.
Gov. Nixon signed the legislation today at Paraquad, one of the largest centers in the country dedicated to helping disabled individuals live independently. Its founder, Max Starkloff, died Dec. 27.
- Any references in state statutes to mental retardation or handicapped are changed to intellectual disability or disabled.
- A parent's disability cannot be a reason to remove a child from a parent's custody or terminate parental rights without showing a direct connection between the disability and harm to the child.
- When a parking lot is re-striped or a new one is constructed, one in every four spots must be accessible. At least one of those spots must be van-accessible, meaning it has at least 96 inches of clearance between the next spot. Parking lot signs erected after Aug. 28 must eliminate the word "handicapped." (Meaning the spots would simply be labeled "accessible" or "van accessible.")
- October is designated Disability Awareness Month in the state. School districts are allowed to require teachers to prepare lessons on the topic.
- Changes to the membership and structure of the Mo HealthNet Oversight Committee, the Children's Service Commission, the Missouri Dental Board and the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.
"This legislation helps us to ensure that as a state, our words, actions and laws do not tolerate discrimination. Words have meaning, and words that are hurtful and hateful have no place in our books or in our hearts," Nixon said.
Freshman Republican Representative Thomas Long, from the Springfield area, fought to include the parental rights provision. He teared up as he spoke of a constituent, a mother who had to fight to keep her children because of a disability.
"We are better as a state when you are allowed to fully participate," Long said. "And we need you. We need everyone in this state participating to the fullest that the can."