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:
Best Buddies: Respect is the New R-Word
End the Word (Facebook Page)