Spread the Word to End the Word—March 6, 2013

by Julie

In high school, I had the amazing opportunity to be a volunteer with the Special Olympics and I loved every minute of it. There was much joy and celebration for every athlete that crossed—or didn't cross —the finish line. Smiles were abundant, as well as some tears. Most importantly, the athletes were treated with a measure of respect and dignity indistinguishable from that shown to able-bodied athletes. It was during this experience that I became firm in the belief that people with disabilities deserve to be accepted and included in society, just as much as able-minded (or able-bodied) people.

It is because of this belief that I am extremely sensitive to the use of the word "retard" (it pains me even to type it), and am surprised that so many people don't know how offensive that word is. I firmly believe the R-word should not be said for any reason—not in casual conversation and especially not in reference to another human being. When you use the R-word, it comes across as saying that all people with intellectual disabilities are "retarded," whether or not that's how you mean it.

Today is the Fourth Annual Spread the Word to End the Word Day. It's a campaign to educate everyone that the R-word is derogatory and offensive. The R-word was once strictly used in a clinical context, then morphed into slang used to demean those with intellectual or physical disabilities. It is now used colloquially as a synonym to lame, stupid, or dumb such as "that test was so R-word." The word is hurtful and a harmful stereotype and most importantly: exclusionary. Everyone has the right to feel included and when the R-word is used it reinforces the stereotype that people with intellectual disabilities are less than human. Timothy Shiver Chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics said,

"Everyone has a gift and the world would be better off if we recognized it."

Today I ask you to join me in the pledge to not use the R-word, and to join the effort to Spread the Word to End the Word.

For more information please visit:
Special Olympics
Best Buddies: Respect is the New R-Word
End the Word (Facebook Page)

Also feel free to watch the following PSA's (helps to know I am not the only one who feels this way).

Pin It


  1. love your post--I am also very sensitive to the R-word--and I accept the pledge!

  2. Great post Julie!

    Individuals with disabilities are incredibly beautiful and have to struggle enough in this life withOUT our acceptance and love. I think a lot of people just don't understand why using the r-word is so unkind and inappropriate, so it's great that you're doing your part to spread the word. It was a good reminder to me too.

    Thank You!

  3. Thank you for this important post! I am horrified when people use that word casually. Same thing goes for the pejorative use of "gay". Since I had kids, I'm so much more mindful of the words I allow to come out of my mouth and I hope that I am always willing to learn and change and try to improve!

  4. So glad you made this post! It's such a good reminder and such a worthy cause to understand. Thanks for spreading the love! :)

  5. Such a good reminder. I have been guilty of using this word in the past. I'm not going to deny it. To me, it never even computed in my brain that I was directing that word toward people with disabilities. However, as I've gotten older, had kids, etc. I know better. I also have known many beautiful, wonderful people with disabilities in my life and I do believe that they deserve the same dignity and respect as the rest of us. So, I'm taking the pledge!! Thanks for reminding this mama of 3 to take a very bad word out of her vocabulary!

  6. I love this post for so many reasons. Having uncles with disabilities, a sweet cousin with down syndrome and working at a school with so many boys and girls who had different disabilities... this is so close to my heart. Thank you for taking time to write about it and bring its attention to others. End the use of the word!!!

  7. Grateful for a friend in the Best Buddies program who taught me this same lesson. Pledge accepted!

  8. I did Best Buddies in high school and learned this lesson then. Thanks for writing this - it was a great reminder!


Pin It button on image hover