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Tucson lawmaker wants to change language regarding disabilities

PHOENIX — At more than 400 pages, Rep. Stefanie Mach of Tucson is pretty sure her bill is this session’s largest.

“It’s a simple change,” she says. “But it’s a really powerful one.”

Mach’s bill involves changing language in state laws — dropping the word “handicapped” and putting people before disabilities. For example, rather than “disabled student,” a law would read “student with a disability.”

“We can pretend that language doesn’t matter, but it does,” Mach said. “Understand that they want to seen for their humanities and other characteristics first and people who just happen to have disabilities. It’s not a whole encompassing view of them, it’s just a part of them.”

A car crash when she was 17 led to Mach’s right arm being amputated. She said she happens to have a disability from doing some things, “But certainly not the majority of what’s important to me. I’m very capable of doing many things in society. I have a master’s in public policy, I was the first in my family to get a college degree. I own a business consulting for non-profits and I’m very able in this community.”

The bill also calls for changing the language in future state literature and signs. For example, the word “handicapped” would no longer appear on signs. Mach says the symbol itself has been federally recognized as appropriate and sufficient.