The guide reinforces the spirit of legislation signed in 2010 by Governor Chris Christie that removes disrespectful language referring to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities from New Jersey statutes and regulations.
“Words matter,” said Commissioner Velez. “The use of outdated, derogatory terms is insulting and hurtful to individuals with disabilities and the people who love them. We’re hopeful this guide provides phrase alternatives that become instilled in the vernacular so we can eliminate the stigma of archaic vocabulary.”
It is estimated that one percent of the U.S. population has an intellectual or developmental disability, representing about 90,000 people in New Jersey. DHS currently serves about 43,000 individuals through programs in its Division of Developmental Disabilities.
The Commissioner noted that despite sophisticated, nationwide public relations campaigns by a host of service organizations promoting People First language or denouncing the ‘R’ word, the message has not resonated, as it should.
“This is not about being ‘politically correct’,” said the Commissioner. “It’s about respect. Our characteristics do not and should not ever define us.”