The Democrat-Reporter, a weekly community newspaper in Linden, Alabama, recently described a proposed residential home for three clients of The Arc of Fayette-Lamar as "retard housing." The paper’s derogatory remarks are hurtful and unfounded, and our community cannot tolerate them. If we do not confront the use of language like this, even when published in a small-town newspaper, it will perpetuate lingering stereotypes of people with cognitive disabilities.
An interesting note: apparently in Linden, Alabama, the "unrelated person" laws in areas that are zoned for single-family homes are actually enforced (unless protested like this one was). My guess is that they're selectively enforced, since it's likely there are households with three unrelated roommates, but still, that's evidence of pretty regressive policies. The law in Massachusetts (Chapter 40a, Section 3!) specifically exempts groups of housemates with disabilities from any local laws relating to unrelated persons living together or to zoning (in other words, that a group residence is to be considered a residence rather than a business, since the business activity taking place there is necessary for the folks to live in the community). There also seems to be a de facto understanding in Massachusetts that these sorts of laws are only applied if a household is otherwise causing a nuisance or public health concern and are not enforced as a means of discriminating against perfectly stable households of chosen family. While we certainly have exceptions -- and some very vocal ones -- it pleases me that the general social climate in Massachusetts tends to be one of not worrying about that which isn't harming anyone.