Israeli Ministers Urge Dropping Word 'Retarded' From Legislation

The change, proposed by MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), will apply to the law governing the treatment of intellectually impaired individuals.

Outside the Knesset building.
Daniel Bar-On

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation Monday advanced a bill to replace the term “retarded” to “person having an intellectual developmental disability” in legislation.

The change, proposed by MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), will apply to the law governing the treatment of intellectually impaired individuals.

The proposal came up after Haaretz reported in February that the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court had criticized the use of the word “retarded” to describe people with intellectual disabilities, although the Social Affairs Ministry had pledged four years ago to replace the term.

Judge Oded Maor said at the time: “The definition ‘retarded’ to describe a person whose functioning and behavior is limited because of diminished or deficient development, which may have been suitable to legislation in the 19th century, must also march forward toward our times.”

In 2009 a public committee was established, headed by retired District Court Judge Saviona Rotlevy, to choose an alternative term, as has been done, for example, in the United States. However, the committee’s recommendation to replace the term retarded with the term “person with intellectual retardation” was rejected.

“The term ‘retarded’, which has been used in legislation, is a humiliating and insulting term and therefore it must be corrected,” Ben Ari said yesterday, adding that her suggestion of “persons with an intellectual developmental disability” would not humiliate people with such a disability.

The Social Affairs Ministry pledged to change the terminology after Maor’s ruling, in which he also said that “as many as 20 years ago the legislature determined that the dignity of people with disabilities must be maintained, and enshrined this right in egalitarian and active participation in all aspects of life,” and that “these rights and society’s obligation to them are based on the recognition of the principle of equality, recognition of the value of a human being created in [God’s] image, and the principle of dignity for all human beings.” But the need to change the term “retarded” had been forgotten.