Goodbye to Demeaning Term “Dependent Adults”

Goodbye to Demeaning Term “Dependent Adults”

For years, people with disabilities and their families and supporters have objected to the demeaning terms “dependent adults” and “elder and dependent adult abuse” in California law.

Now Senator Jim Beall has introduced a bill sponsored by The Arc California to change those terms to simply “adults with disabilities” and “elder and disability abuse.” It is Senate Bill 920.

The bill spells out the reasons for the terminology change:

“The terms ‘dependent adult’ and ‘dependent person’ are misleading because many of the people with disabilities that those terms cover live independently. These terms can mislead law enforcement officers, social workers, and even crime victims and their families to think that many people with disabilities are excluded from the law’s protections.

“The term ‘elder and dependent adult abuse’ is cumbersome and often leads to the use of shorthand terms, including the misleadingly narrow ‘elder abuse’ or the misleadingly broad ‘adult abuse.’

“The term ‘dependent’ demeans and insults people with disabilities who live independently.”

It notes that the existing legal definitions of “dependent adult” or “dependent person” are, for most practical purposes, identical to the definition of “disability” in Section 422.56 of the Penal Code. The bill will make no change in these definitions, just in the terminology.

SB 920 is the first concrete result of this historic letter signed by 20 organizations — led by The Arc — laying out the beginning of a comprehensive agenda to attack the appallingly widespread problem of crimes against people with disabilities and older adults.


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