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New Mexico School for Visually Impaired Name Change, Measure 5 (2004)

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School for the Visually Handicapped, also known as Constitutional Amendment 5, was on the 2004 ballot in New Mexico as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.[1]

Election results

Measure 5
Approveda Yes 462,144 71.2%

Ballot summary

Constitutional Amendment 5 proposes to amend Article 12, Section 11 of the constitution of New Mexico by changing the name of the New Mexico school for the visually handicapped to the New Mexico school for the blind and visually impaired.

Supporting Arguments

  1. The proposed amendment provides a politically correct alternative to the name of the New Mexico school for the visually handicapped.
  2. The term "handicapped" no longer appears in federal law applicable to blind and visually impaired persons. It is appropriate and necessary to amend our state constitution so that we are consistent with the federal law.
  3. The term "handicap," though often thought to mean impairment or disability, is not necessarily synonymous with those terms. An impairment, such as the loss of a leg, that is not compensated for, as with a prosthetic device, will result in a disability. A handicap is more of a socially, environmentally and personally specified limitation, which may or may not be the result of an impairment or disability. Thus, not all blind or visually impaired people are handicapped, though we often tend to assume as much. In short, the current term, "visually handicapped," does not accurately describe all those who are served by the school.
  4. What we call ourselves and how we define ourselves is central to our well-being, and the fact that the use of the term "handicapped" is often offensive to the people so labeled is enough reason to substitute "blind and visually impaired" for "visually handicapped" in the constitution of New Mexico. Names do matter, and more accurately describing the purposes of the institution that serves the blind and visually impaired shows an appreciation of that fact and respect for those served by that institution.[2]

Opposing Arguments

  1. The use of words and phrases certainly may change over time, but this is usually a gradual process. The connotation of commonly used words does not so totally change in the course of a few years that an institution must be renamed twice in 40 years to avoid the appearance of insensitivity. The New Mexico school for the blind was renamed the New Mexico institute for the visually handicapped in 1960. Now it is proposed to be renamed the New Mexico school for the blind and visually impaired. This might not be necessary, considering that even organizations founded to promote issues concerning the visually impaired, such as the national association for the visually handicapped, have not felt compelled to change their names.
  2. The money required to change the name of this institution could be better spent on education and services. We should not spend scarce tax dollars simply to change a term to be fashionable unless it is so outdated and offensive that it is shocking to those it serves. The term "handicapped" does not have such a reputation.
  3. It is not appropriate to amend the state constitution every time a new terminology is deemed to be more politically correct. The constitution is a venerable document and the bedrock of our system of laws. It should not be subjected to a passing fancy.
  4. The amendment is not sufficiently comprehensive. If it were, the amendment would also contemplate changing the name of the New Mexico school for the deaf to the "New Mexico school for the hearing impaired."
  5. Changing the name of the New Mexico school for the visually handicapped might confuse people and cause problems for those who obtained a degree from the school, as it might appear that the school no longer exists.[3]

See also

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