Arizona Capitol

Arizona Legislators Pass Bill to Remove Words "Disabled" and "Handicapped" From State Law

The Arizona Legislature has passed a bill that would replace the words "disabled" and "handicapped" in state law.

Democratic Representative Stefanie Mach, who was seriously injured in a car accident nearly two decades ago, says in a statement that the current language is "offensive." House Bill 2667, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, changes various laws to refer to a "person or persons with disabilities" instead.

"These are the terms that most people with disabilities prefer," Mach says.

Changes include references to things like reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities. Instead of placing a "permanently disabled removable windshield placard" on a rear-view mirror, people will be attaching a "permanent disability windshield placard" to the mirror.

There are dozens of these changes made throughout Arizona's laws.

Obviously, the meanings of words and phrases change over time, and such changes to the state law take place periodically. For example, last year, lawmakers removed a horrible definition of "mentally ill person," which included descriptors like "an idiot, an insane person, a lunatic or a person non compos."

According to a news report on that change last year, legislators also recently removed references to "Oriental" people from state law, and also replaced the phrase "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability."

This year's bill referring to people with disabilities now only needs Governor Jan Brewer's signature to become law.

Interestingly, upon passage of this bill, we discovered a congressional candidate. We received a statement on this bill from a man by the name of James Woods, who, according to Federal Election Commission records, is the only Democrat who's filed to run for Congress in Arizona's CD-5 -- a seat currently occupied by Republican Congressman Matt Salmon.

Turns out, Woods is blind, and his campaign spokeswoman says he'd be the first blind congressman in nearly 100 years if he were to be elected.

"Seven years ago, I was hospitalized for a rare illness that nearly killed me and that ultimately left me completely blind," Woods' statement says. "I lost my sight, but I did not lose the ability to contribute to my family, my community or my state. For me and the hundreds of thousands of other Arizonans with disabilities, HB2667 represents a welcome effort to modernize the language our state uses to address us. This is an important step toward the removal of archaic, inaccurate labels that define us by our disability and that dismiss our contributions."

Woods has an uphill battle in his congressional race, as Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 in the north and east Valley district. Salmon won the seat in 2012 with more than 67 percent of the vote, while his Democratic challenger received less than 33 percent.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley