‘R-Word’ Pledge Is No More
Ten years in, an initiative aimed at stomping out use of the word “retard” is evolving to embrace a new focus.
Special Olympics and Best Buddies said this week that their “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign will segue into an effort dubbed “Spread the Word: Inclusion.”
The new push will emphasize respect and inclusion rather than highlighting an end to terminology that’s considered offensive to many with disabilities.
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“We know that exclusion persists beyond just language,” said Tim Shriver, Jr., co-founder of Spread the Word in a video posting about the changes. “Over 60 percent of people still believe that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be segregated in schools and the workplace. We need to create a new reality, one in which everyone — with or without an intellectual or developmental disability — is included.”
“Spread the Word to End the Word” originated in 2009 as a grassroots campaign. As a result of the group’s efforts, over 780,000 people have taken an online pledge to “support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”
Rather than asking people to commit to a predefined pledge, the new incarnation of the initiative asks people to come up with their own commitment to help make inclusion a reality.
“From our work bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities, we believe that inclusion is a skill — a skill that our world needs now more than ever. With this global, grassroots campaign, we are challenging all people to practice the skill of inclusion, develop it, model it and teach it,” said Soeren Palumbo, a co-founder of Spread the Word who works as senior director of global youth engagement at Special Olympics International.