This Wednesday is “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Started as a simple website by the Special Olympics in 2008, this grew to a nationwide campaign involving schools and universities across our county, all with the goal of ending the use of the R-word in everyday language.
Many people may not consider the R-word to be a slur, but to millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that is what it can feel like. Language can have a huge impact on attitudes and actions. By eliminating the R-word from regular speech, we can work on creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.
In 2010, President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” which was inspired by a Maryland woman with an intellectual disability. The bill garnered unanimous support in passing both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Rosa’s Law was commemorated in a White House ceremony with an 11-member delegation of Special Olympics athletes, leaders and self-advocates present to celebrate the milestone. Starting that year, federal agencies dropped the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in federal health, education and labor laws and replaced them with “intellectual disability” and since then, almost every state has passed similar legislation.
By challenging others to talk, think and write with respect, we are making a noticeable and sustainable impact in ending the use of the R-word. TV networks have now banned the use of the word, and public figures are speaking out against those who might use the word.
I encourage you to sign the petition to not to use the R-word: http://www.r-word.org/r-word-take-action.aspx#.VPR5LfnF98F
… and tell your friends and family!