Agency to drop 'mental retardation' label

The agency action reflects a growing consensus that the term carries a stigma. SSA will replace it with “intellectual disability” in impairment listings used to evaluate claims involving mental disorders, according to a notice to be published in Thursday’s Federal Register.

“Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term ‘‘mental retardation’’ has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it,” the agency concluded.

The final rule, to take effect 30 days from Thursday, follows the January release of draft regulations and a call for public input.

Of 76 comments received, 71 supported the change. A handful of people favored the term “developmentally disabled,” while others thought argued that intellectually disabled is vague and recommended the continued use of “mentally retarded.”

The SSA considered the comments but made no changes to the rule.