Letter from Commissioner Diana Jones Ritter – OMRDD is now called OPWDD!

July 13, 2010

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It’s official!

Governor David A. Paterson officially signed our name change into law today‑ the name of this agency is now the New York State Office For People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)!

This historical legislation not only removes the words “Mental Retardation” from the name of our agency, but also from State statute and regulations, excluding clinical references. The new name, as you all know, was chosen in March 2010 by consensus of representative stakeholders. It eliminates the stigmatizing language which was part of the agency’s name and instead reflects this Office’s #1 guiding principle of “Putting People First.” It is consistent with the People First language law enacted in 2007 which mandates that in statutory language we place the emphasis where it should be – on the people we serve, not the disability.

The use of “W” in the new agency name avoids the acronym “OPDD,” which might have been conveyed as the “Office for Pervasive Developmental Disorders,” which is a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. While OPWDD does serve people on the spectrum, we also serve many others under the umbrella of developmental disabilities.

Agency staff is hard at work changing our Website and other publications to reflect the OPWDD change, effective today. The name change will not result in any new costs, implementation will be gradual with the plan being to phase it in as part of normal replacement cycles.

I am so pleased to have been a part of this vital change, which is the culmination of our partnership and all the work you have done to advocate for the respect and dignity of people with developmental disabilities. Thank you for all your support – your voices were heard and made a difference! This agency will now continue its vital mission of helping people with developmental disabilities live richer lives – going forward as OPWDD!


Diana Jones Ritter



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