How often do you find yourself using the word retarded on a daily basis? It may seem like a strange question or a jarring statement to think about, but if you stop and ponder on it for a second you might find the results to be astonishing. After I began working at Goodwill three years ago and I started become more aware of people first language, putting the person before the disability, I realized how often that word is used by everyone, daily, simply to describe actions of another person, a rule some implemented or even clothing style. What people don’t often take into consideration when they use the word retarded is its impact on a large group of people as a form of derision.
In its original form the terms “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” had specific clinical meanings, now however, they have been widely used by society as an insult or a way to describe something in a more demeaning fashion which has become an insult to people with disabilities. Whey the word is used by people without disabilities it is reinforcing stereotypes, which is why the R-Word campaign was started with the intention to “spread the word to end the word.”
In 2004 Special Olympics athlete’s called for a change and in response the International Board of Directors updated the use of the term “mental retardation” to intellectual disabilities.” Now, for the past eight years, it has been the effort of the R-Word campaign to eliminate the use of the R-word in everyday society.
In 2010, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which removes “mental retardation” from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language; coming one step closing in breaking the stereotype for future generations.
With more than 250,000 people pledging their support on line the R-Word is gaining awareness but more can always be done. I’ve taken the pledge and I encourage everyone to do the same and spread the word to end the word. http://www.r-word.org/Default.aspx