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Disability advocates want name change for Missouri state agency

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Hundreds of disabled people and their supporters rallied and lobbied at the State Capitol today, hoping to change the name of a state agency to something they say is less offensive.

Those attending the rally say they want a different name for The State Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Meagan Schultz with the St. Louis-based group Paraquad says they're asking lawmakers to drop the words "mental retardation" from the title.

"(The words) 'mental retardation' have very negative connotations, and for people who are diagnosed with mental retardation, they are incredibly hurt...it has become a negative term in our society," Schultz said.

There is a bill in the State Senate that would change the division's name. It's sponsored by State Senator Kevin Engler (R, Farmington).

"Nothing is more effective than your voices, talking about, 'this affects me, and I don't want to be referred to as retarded by the state of Missouri,'" Engler told the crowd at the rally.

The bill is in limbo, however. It was set aside following a filibuster led by State Senator Timothy Green (D, St. Louis).

Green declined to be interviewed for this story, as did Republican Senator Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau, who also opposes the bill.

Engler says those in opposition are well-meaning and worked hard for name recognition for the division back in the 1970's and 80's.

But he adds that it's now time to move on.


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