I’m Just a Bill

Arizona moves to change antiquated terms for persons with disabilities

On April 23, 2014, the Arizona Legislature put another session in the books. With numerous bills passed, none could be said to have been more monumental to the disability movement than House Bill (HB) 2667.

The 402 page bill was signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, and despite its length, only makes one simple change.

HB 2667 will replace the words disabled, handicap, handicapped and handicapping with person(s) with disabilities. Currently these terms are defined as an individual who has a temporary or permanent physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities. Representative Stefanie Mach (D-Dist. 10), primary sponsor and head spokesperson of the bill, stated during her committee testimony, “This is a simple but powerful change.”

Mach explained in the House Health Committee on February 19 that the archaic language was brought to her attention by a constituent. Compelled to take action, Mach sponsored the changes and explained that “language is the first place to start” when it comes to pushing the disability movement forward.

The bill gathered nonpartisan support and passed the House and the Senate with flying colors. HB 2667 had seven democratic primary sponsors and 15 cosponsors (eight democrats and seven republicans) and was highly regarded on both sides of the aisle. Representative John Allen (R-Dist. 15) elaborated during discussion on the House Floor by explaining that “handicap means beggar” and our “society has come a long way.” It is a rarity to see R’s and D’s applaud a single effort.

Not only was the nonpartisan effort to credit for the transmittal of HB 2667, but Mach played a vital role in this particular policy because her own disabilities.

Mach, 32-years-old from Wisconsin, was in a car accident as a teenager and was left with life altering injuries. The accident resulted in the loss of an arm, blindness in one eye, legally blind in the other, significant scaring throughout her body and the loss of a close companion.

Working through lifestyle changes and adversity, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin in 2002 and a master’s in public policy with an emphasis in education from Brown University in 2011. After spending time in Arizona during her master’s program with a youth development leadership organization, Mach now calls Arizona home. She is currently CEO of CM Concordia Consulting, LLC which specializes in non-profit and political consulting in Tucson.

It goes without saying that the intent of HB 2667 personally affects Mach but she made it clear to the media that she did not want her own disabilities to be the center of this legislation and the goal is to put people before their disabilities.

Before finishing its journey through the legislature, HB 2667 was amended in the Senate. The change simply requires state rules, publications, orders, actions, programs, policies and signage to comply with the new law. Changes may be made only when updates are necessary, in order to avoid any financial burden to an agency, institution or facility.

As mentioned before, HB 2667 makes a small change but it will leave a huge impact. Removing the current outdated language is a monumental step for Arizona’s disabled community and it can only be assumed this particular movement will continue forward.

 

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