“They are who they are and much, much more.”
– John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia Athlete
Hello DRexers! This week, I’d like to share with you something that is very important to me, the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign. For as long as I can remember, I have always volunteered or worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities. It’s one of the things in my life that I am truly passionate about and one of my many joys.
Everyday we hear the word “retard(ed)” said in passing, in the presence of others or as a means to generate laughter. We hear it from our friends, in the media, from strangers, from our family and sometimes from ourselves. So what’s the big deal? It’s a joke, right? You don’t really mean it; it’s just a word.
Well, let me ask you this: have you ever stopped to wonder how hurtful the r-word is for someone who has an intellectual disability, their family or their friends? When the r-word is used as a synonym for ‘dumb’, it reinforces the stereotype of people with intellectual disabilities as being less valued or separate from the rest of the world. Although many people don’t think of this word has hate speech, its just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.
John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics Virginia Athlete, wrote a very touching and inspiring post about how the r-word affects him, which can be read here. Take the time to read his thoughts and make a conscious effort to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-world from your every day speech. After all, there are thousands of words in the Oxford English Dictionary that you can use instead like Respect.
What is the R-Word all about?
In 2008, the Special Olympics launched r-word.org to encourage individuals and organizations to stop using the r-word. The goal behind the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign isn’t to replace the word with another equally stigmatizing phrase but to increase the inclusion for those who may speak, act, or move differently. I’m encouraging you to not only help raise awareness but also foster respect and inclusion for everyone, regardless of disabilities.