Are you familiar with the R-word? I am talking about the word ‘retard(ed)’. A word that was originally used as a medical term. A word that over time has become synonymous for silly, stupid and dumb. A word that ultimately hurts.
The word “retardation” began as a clinical diagnosis to label people with intellectual impairments. However, in modern times it has morphed into a common phrase that people use as an insult for someone or something stupid. For example, have you ever heard someone say, “You are so retarded” or “This is retarded”? Even though the intent may not be to harm someone with a disability, using the word as a negative connotation reinforces the stereotype that people with intellectual disabilities are less valued members of society.
In attempt to raise people’s awareness of the hurtful effects of the R-word, Special Olympics and Best Buddies and their supporters launched the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As someone who has worked with people with disabilities for nearly 15 years, I am very passionate about this movement. I am a firm believer of the “people first language” and choose to see individuals for who they are instead of the labels they have been given. I think it is important to focus on their abilities rather than their obstacles. Celebrating people’s differences using respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.
One of the most moving speeches I have ever heard on this subject was delivered by an 18-year-old high school student. He discusses the power of words and helps drive the message home with some personal experiences. Check it out!
So on this day of March 7, the official day of awareness for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, I encourage you to act! Take a personal pledge to support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech by clicking here. Change begins with you.
Thank you for your support!