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The R-Word: As Cruel and Offensive as Any Slur

PHOTO: Wed., Mar. 5 is National “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day, an effort to get people to stop using the word "retarded" when referring to individuals with disabilities. Photo credit: R-word
PHOTO: Wed., Mar. 5 is National “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day, an effort to get people to stop using the word "retarded" when referring to individuals with disabilities. Photo credit: R-word
March 5, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa - Across Iowa and the nation today, people are being asked to take time to stop and think about how their words may affect others.

This is "Spread the Word to End the Word" day, asking people to remove the "R-word" from their vocabulary, said Rik Shannon, public policy manager for the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council.

"The word 'retarded' is used so often that people often don't realize just how cruel and offensive the term is," said Shannon. "When we choose words like that word, whether we intend to or not, we really disparage other people."

Shannon said nearly 50,000 Iowans who have developmental disabilities are family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

While today is focused on getting everyday people to stop using the word, Shannon said on a higher level, it's already been replaced with the phrase "intellectual disability" in the text of laws, both locally and nationally.

"We've made a great deal of progress in recent years in removing the 'R-word' from state and federal code references," he said. "Choosing language that's more respectful, more inclusive is a big part of building strong communities where everyone feels like they're welcomed and accepted."

More information and resources can be found online at r-word.org and at IDaction.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA