The power of words

The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign is sweeping the nation this March, encouraging individuals to take a stand against the “R-word.”

The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign is sweeping the nation
this March, encouraging individuals to take a stand against the “R-word.”

NATIONWIDE (February 26, 2014) — We’ve all heard the chant “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And we all know it’s not true. Derogatory words are powerful. They are painful and can cause people to be excluded.

This March, Special Olympics and Best Buddies International are teaming up with 200 other organizations from around the world to take a stand against the “R-word.” The movement is aimed at raising awareness about the harmful effects for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and culminates in the nationwide campaign to “Spread the Word to End the Word.”

If you aren’t sure what “R-word” we are referring too, it is the slang word “retarded.” Previously, medical professionals used the term mental retardation to describe developmental or intellectual disabilities. Over time the word has evolved into an offensive slang term to mean “stupid” or “foolish.” The word not only impacts people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also their families.

On March 5, the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign is encouraging folks to take a stand against this hateful speech and pledge to stop the use of the “R-word” and to hold events throughout March to promote the movement. So far, events are being held in Illinois, California, Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Massachusetts, Iowa and Kentucky. Some states are holding multiple events in different cities and promote themes like “Spread the Love” in their efforts to end the use of the “R-word.”

Don’t have an event near you? Folks at Special Olympics and Best Buddies encourage cities not participating in a local event to take the pledge and also share personal stories or stories of friends and families that have been hurt by the “R-word” on the R-word website. You can also visit the resource page for ideas on how to set up your own event and simple ways to incorporate the campaign in to other events, like a banner to have your people sign committing to stop using the “R–word.”

The Office of Disability Employment Policy has laid out ways to communicate with and about people with disabilities through people-first language here.

Click here to take the pledge today and for more information about “Spread the Word to End the Word.”

Author : Moriah Dietrich