Use of 'retarded' in The NY Times














Hi -- I was grateful to have a response from Danny Hakim, the reporter who wrote Lawmaker To File Suit Charging Abuse of His Disabled Son in The New York Times yesterday. I blogged about it here.

Hakim was a collaborator in a series of articles called Abused and Used last year, which revealed widespread violence against and neglect of people with developmental disabilities in New York State group homes.

When the series was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in April, the Pulitzer board said it “revealed rapes, beatings and more than 1,200 unexplained deaths over the past decade of developmentally disabled people in New York State group homes, leading to removal of two top officials, movement to fire 130 employees and passage of remedial laws.”


I applaud Hakim for his work to expose the effects of disability hate. And I hope he'll think further on whether the word "retarded" as a descriptor for one of the most marginalized groups in society is fitting. Louise

Louise,

Thanks for the note. Obviously I meant no disrespect. Mental retardation is a diagnosed condition – you can look it up in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual. We also explain it further here: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/mental-retardation/overview.html We’ve actually used the term with some frequency, in headlines and elsewhere. And Ricky’s parents told me that was part of his diagnosis. It’s a bit of a quandary I guess. If it’s part of the diagnosis, I don’t like to leave it out, but I understand the feelings you and others have about the word. I think a copy editor decided to change it late that night, I assume because of the kind of concerns you raise. This term is still used in the medical profession, though, so it’s not a simple thing to always be ignoring it. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

Best,

Danny Hakim
Albany Bureau Chief
The New York Times