HARRISBURG — The Arc of Pennsylvania has selected state Senator Andrew E. Dinniman as its 2012 “Legislator of the Year” recipient. The Arc of Pennsylvania honors a legislator annually who has demonstrated leadership to address the needs of Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
In 2011, Sen. Dinniman, who represents Newlin and West Marlborough in the Unionville area, introduced SB458, which updated and modernized state government terminology, replacing “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability.” The update in terminology is important as “retarded” has become an insult and affects how people with intellectual disabilities are viewed by others.
Change was spurred by self-advocates from The Arc of Chester County who attended The Arc of the United States 2009 convention and learned of a pledge to end the use of the word “retarded” (www.r-word.org), which they then took to Sen. Dinniman. After signing the pledge, Sen. Dinniman took the next step and introduced SB458 amending the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, in order to make the changes in Pennsylvania. Governor Corbett signed the bill into law as Act 105 of 2011 in December 2011.
The state action closely follows recent federal changes. In 2010, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law which addresses the references in federal law. According to The Arc of the United States, “the term ‘mental retardation’ remains the terminology used in the medical field and referenced in many state laws.” The Arc of PA will continue to work with legislators to update the language in other state policies and regulations.
In addition to Act 105, Sen. Dinniman has been invaluable on numerous other fronts in advancing state legislative and regulatory issues important to Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
Sen. Dinniman will be honored during The Arc of Pennsylvania’s annual legislative reception at the Harrisburg Hilton on Tuesday, March 27. Andrew Dinniman has represented the 19th Senate District in Chester and Montgomery Counties since 2006 and currently serves as Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee.