Words can leave deep wounds. “Retard,” slang for mental retardation, the dated medical term once used to diagnose intellectual disabilities (ID) by physicians, has come to hold a negative connotation that is both derogatory and offensive. Yet, it has for years been used in everyday conversation as a synonym for stupid, promoting the false ideology that people with IDs lack intelligence. The R-word attacks and excludes both the intellectually disabled and their allies.
The eradicating of the use of the R-word from everyday vocabulary creates a more inclusive environment for those with ID. The Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, with the help of 200 other organizations, are on the front lines of fighting to protect the disabled, standing strong with the help of student volunteers. Their campaign uses the motto, “R-Word; Spread the Word to End the Word,” and on March 7, these organizations held an annual day of awareness to educate communities about inclusion through removing the use of retard and its suffixes from participants’ vocabulary. All throughout March, they encourage people to pledge to cease the use of the R-word, and “to spread the word” to friends via social media.
So far, the organization has approximately 700,000 pledges, and #EndTheWord has over 100,000 mentions on twitter. Their goal, according to their website, is to reach as many global citizens as possible in order to create an inclusive society where intellectually disabled are welcomed and not discriminated against.
Best Buddies, an international non-profit mentoring program for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and a supporter of the End the Word campaign, promotes inclusion in schools through various activities and fundraisers. The Wilson chapter, led by senior Juliette Fratto, was established three years ago, and makes tremendous efforts towards implementing the organization’s goals. “A lot of schools special ed programs keeps [students with IDs]very secluded. It’s important for them to have contact with other people who aren’t disabled.” To foster relationships between disabled and non-disabled students, Wilson’s Best Buddies club organizes and attends theme parties, field trips, and events like an annual prom at Carnegie Library with various Best Buddies chapters from the area . “Earlier in the year we went to [Le Diplomate] to do a cookie decorating party,” said recalled junior Emilia Majersik, secretary of the club.
Fratto shared, “March is Spread the Word to End the Word month. Later in March we are going to do tables at lunchtime to make sure everyone’s aware, a lunchtime presentation [and] a car wash.” The objective of these efforts is to inform Wilson students how they can stop saying the R-word, and have them pledge.“Last year we had a really big [event], it was paid for all by Best Buddies Ledo’s pizza did a big thing,” giving free pizza to all pledgees, promising to end using the R-word.
Pledge to stop using the R-word at http://www.r-word.org/r-word-pledge.aspx and share the movement on social media. Wilson Students can also get further involved by matching up with a peer buddy at the beginning of the school year, purchasing from their bake sales, or donating donate to Wilson’s Best Buddies chapter.