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AAIDD Applauds the Social Security Administration’s Proposal to Replace the Term “Mental Retardation” with “Intellectual Disability” in its Regulations

Washington, DC (January 28, 2013)

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) applauds the Social Security Administration (SSA) for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in today's Federal Register to replace references to “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in its regulations. 

Specifically, the NPRM proposes to make this change to the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, which is used to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), and in other appropriate sections of its regulations.

This proposed change would reflect the widespread adoption of the term “intellectual disability” by Congress, government agencies, and public and private organizations. SSA’s proposal is consistent with Rosa’s Law, signed by President Obama on October 5, 2010, that directed that the term “intellectual disability” would replace outdated language in federal education, health, and labor laws.

“This action by SSA is a further meaningful step forward in assuring the dignity of people with intellectual disability,” said Dr. Margaret Nygren, Executive Director of AAIDD. “We applaud the efforts of SSA to address the language of its regulations in the spirit of Rosa’s Law.”

The proposed change in language will not change the requirements that an individual must meet in order to establish entitlement or eligibility to receive disability benefits under the Social Security Act.


View the NPRM and instructions for public comments

View the text of Rosa’s Law

View Remarks by the President on the Signing of Rosa’s Law


Founded in 1876, AAIDD is the oldest professional association concerned with intellectual and developmental disabilities. AAIDD advocates for the equality, dignity, and human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and for their full inclusion and participation in society. Learn more about AAIDD at

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