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Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Delete Pejorative Language References to Disabled in State Law Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel approved legislation on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson to remove language in state law referring to a person with developmental, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities.

“State law must reflect proper language use and be respectful to all communities,” said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). “Language plays an important role in how individuals see themselves and others. By removing antiquated and offensive terms from our statutes we are fighting the stigma long associated with mental health and physical challenges.”

“How state law is written and the language used is just as important as the intent of the law,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “The language this bill refers to is antiquated and can be considered insensitive to persons with disabilities the law aims to help. These changes are critical to ensuring state law is not only effective but, most importantly, respectful in its language.”

The bill (A-4461) deletes referenced to pejorative and archaic language that is used in the state statutes when referring to persons with a disability. The bill employs “person-first” language, to ensure that persons are referred to as having certain disabilities, rather than being defined by their disabilities. The replacement of the pejorative terms is not intended to change the meaning of the various sections of the law amended by the bill.

The Assembly Human Services Committee released the measure; and it now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.