Last Wednesday was “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Started as a simple website by the Special Olympics in 2008, it has grown to a nationwide campaign involving schools and universities across our country, all with the goal of ending the use of the R-word in everyday language.
Although some people might not consider the R-word to be a slur, to millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that is what it can feel like. We know that language has a huge impact on attitudes and actions. By eliminating the R-word from usage, we can work on creating more accepting attitudes and inclusive communities for all.
A bit of history:
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. Pennsylvania has done so.
My experience with the R-word goes back to my days as a special education teacher in the Erie School District. I was the teacher of the “R” students, so I could see on a daily basis how my students reacted to being called this. As this left an impression on me to this day, I am one of the most vehement advocates of abolishing this word from everyone’s vocabulary.
I encourage you to sign the petition to not use the R-word: http://www.r-word.org/r-word-take-action.aspx#.VPR5LfnF98F
…and tell your friends and family!