Hundreds celebrate World Down Syndrome Day as Gov. Hickenlooper signs legislation to eliminate the “R” word

DENVER – Wednesday, March 21, 2018 – Gov. John Hickenlooper joined forces with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (Global) and hundreds of self-advocates, families and community partners to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day at the Colorado State Capitol today.

As part of the annual celebration in Colorado, Hickenlooper signed bill SB 18-096, which eliminates the “R” word (“mentally retarded” and “mental retardation”) and replaces the terms with more appropriate “intellectual and developmental disability” language. The bill was sponsored by Senator Beth Martinez Humenik and Representative Dan Thurlow.

Colorado joins other states and the federal government in putting people first language into law. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Law” which removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal law and policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” More than 40 states have followed suit in passing respectful language bills.

“My daughter and millions of others who are differently-abled in this country deserve the same respect and equality afforded any other American citizen,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, President & CEO of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. “Words really do matter and they can hurt and discriminate – which is why today is so special as we celebrate not only new language but a new more just perspective as codified by our government.”

Global Affiliates, the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at University of Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus, the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital presented and celebrated with families and partners from across Colorado, including the ARC of Colorado and Arc Thrift, who were in attendance for this historic moment.

Global has long-advocated for inclusive and people first language. Most recently, Global joined the community and petitioned Netflix for anti-disability, anti-Down syndrome rhetoric in a new show called “Disgraceful” that led to the bullying of parents of people with Down syndrome. Actor, Global spokesperson and board member John C McGinley has shown support with a recent editorial to help end the use of “R” the word.

World Down Syndrome Day is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date – March 21 – has special meaning to the Down syndrome community as individuals with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21.


About the Global Down Syndrome Foundation
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is at the forefront of research, medical care, education and advocacy dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome. Supporting the research of hundreds of scientists around the world, and through our advocates, partners and affiliates including the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome and the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome, Global is making an impact on the lives of people with Down syndrome today, and remains focused on finding solutions tomorrow. We are committed to helping people with Down syndrome realize their fullest potential and to lead healthy and productive lives. To learn more, visit.

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