Mr. Philip Corbett
Associate Managing Editor for Standards, The New York Times
Feb. 25, 2013
I wanted to bring your attention to this headline yesterday:
Don't Call Him Mom, or an Imbecile
Was the writer intending to refer to someone with an intellectual disability?
Would an equally appropriate headline have been:
Don't Call Him Mom, or a Retard
Why not? Both words have the same origins?
I first wrote you about my concerns with routine use of the word “retarded” in your newspaper to describe people with intellectual disabilities on Oct. 9.
On Oct. 26 you wrote: Our health editor and our mental-health reporter both agree that we should give stronger guidance to the newsroom about the use of “retarded.” I will be working with them to draft a new style note.
The words retarded and imbecile are not neutral, nor are they the chosen descriptors of people with intellectual disabilities (and your style guide counsels neutral language and respect for preferred group descriptors).
According to The American Psychiatric Association: “Mental retardation is no longer used internationally [as a medical term] or in U.S. federal legislation.” The APA’s proposed name change for its new diagnostic manual in May is intellectual development disorder.
Would you show the same kind of disrespect for more powerful minority groups?
I will be sharing this on the BLOOM blog with our readers who are parents of children with disabilities in 136 countries.
Please let me know when this will be rectified. Thank you, Louise