Public Health Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF RESPECTFUL AND PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL: This bill makes changes in terminology in various statutes referring to persons with disabilities to reflect the use of “person-first” language. For example, it substitutes the term “person with disabilities” for “disabled person,” “persons with physical or developmental disabilities” for “handicapped and developmentally disabled,” and “persons who are elderly and persons with disabilities” for “the elderly and disabled.”
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Elizabeth Ritter, Commissioner of State Department On Aging: Supports sections 46-51 of SB 796. These sections will align state statute with federal law by substituting the usage of “elderly” for “older”. This bill is a coordinated effort across state agencies to update state statutes to include respectful language.
Jossie Torres, Self-Advocate Coordinator, Department of Developmental Services: Supports SB 796 as it promotes person first language, and will help change people's perceptions of those in the disability community.
Raul Pino, Commissioner of Department of Public Health: Supports this bill, as it will include person first language in statue. The current use of non-person first language is offensive to those in the disability community and to those that care about being respectful to others.
Jonathan Slifka, Liaison to the Disability Community, Governors Office: This bill updates outdated and disrespectful language that refers to persons with disabilities. Passage of this bill will be another evolution in the states disability advocacy, disability rights and disability action. A proposed amendment was submitted with three minor revisions that: (1) implements changes proposed by the Department of Rehabilitation Services that correct an inadvertent reference to advisory boards, where the responsibility of the provision is actually under Department of Rehabilitation Services; (2) A clarification proposed by Department of Revenue Services that specifies that the age limit for the provision is for persons sixty years of age or older and (3) person centered language changes regarding persons who are deaf or hard of hearing requested by the American School for the Deaf.
Amy Porter, Commissioner, The Department of Rehabilitation Services: Supports the bill with three recommendations for changes. In Section 20 of the bill at lines 403-5, recommends deleting Advisory Board for Persons with Blindness or Visual Impairment” and, in its place, use “the State Board of Education and Services for the Blind, predecessor agency of the Department of Rehabilitation Services. The statutory reference is meant to capture the agency that existed in and prior to 1971.
In Section 20 at lines 415-6, recommend replacing “Advisory Board for Persons with Blindness or Visual Impairment” with “the Department of Rehabilitation Services”.
Lastly, Section 21 at line 423, recommends replacing “Advisory Board for Persons with Blindness or Visual Impairment” with “the Department of Rehabilitation Services”. In this case the statute means to refer to the employee's employment agency.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Deborah Chernoff, New England Health Care Employees Union: Supports the bill as it will add person first language to statue. This bill signifies a shift in how the services of their members are thought of and how to understand and interact with the people who need and receive the services of SEIU.
Daniel Pinnell, Director Connecticut Chapter for We the Deaf, Inc: Supports the bill because it removes the term “hearing impaired”. This is a negative term that does not represent the wishes of the community, who wish to be identified as deaf.
Jeffrey S. Bravin, American School For The Deaf: This bill removes “hearing impaired” and replaces it with the more appropriate words, “deaf and hard of hearing”. The American School for the Deaf has also submitted language to the governor's office requesting to remove “hearing impaired” from other parts of statute.
Houston Mcbride, Deaf People United Connecticut: This bill will remove “Hearing imparied” from statute which is a dirty word chosen by those who are not deaf without the input of the deaf community.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Cathy Ludlum: This bill imposes person first language on populations that reject it. Making the language more complicated will not address the issues of negative attitudes toward those with disabilities. SB 796 fails to address numerous instances of statute referring to autism as a disorder. This bill should be tabled until there are further discussions with members of the disability community.
Stephen Mendelsohn: opposes the bill as it uses language that is disfavored and often rejected by significant segments of the disabled community, particularly the austic, deaf and blind communities. Person first language is becoming increasingly controversial as well as unwieldy and plain bad English. Request that SB 796 be tabled until further discussions are had with the disabled community to include identity first language.
Reported by: Walter L. Morton IV