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Ohio law refers to a 'habitual drunkard' and 'lunatics.' Two state lawmakers say it's time for an update

Published By The Columbus Dispatch on May 25, 2021
Tom Young In The News

Ohio law is peppered with outdated terms such as "lunatics," "mentally retarded," and "habitual drunkard" — words that two legislators are pushing to strike from the Ohio Revised Code.

Democrat Dontavius Jarrells and Republican Tom Young are co-sponsoring House Bill 281, which is pending in the House Health Committee.

The 819-page bill would change 33 derogatory terms and replace them with "people first" language and new terms. For example, "deaf and dumb" would be replaced with deaf, "crippled child" would be replaced with child with a disability and "handicapped parking" would be changed to accessible parking.

"This bill is a massive bill because of the prevalence of these terms in the code," Jarrells said.

"Rather than defining someone primarily by their disability, people-first language conveys respect by emphasizing the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost just that-people," Young said.

Nearly 27% of Ohio adults have a disability.

Juliet Dorris-Williams, director of Ohio P.E.E.R. Center in Columbus, said words like mental defective, deranged, handicapped, lunatics, mentally deficient have "no place in modern discourse." 

House Health Committee Chairman Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said he expects to hold more hearings on the bill in the next two weeks.

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