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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

AUSTIN, Texas - Across Texas 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 word "retarded" from their vocabulary, said Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilties.

"The origin of that word is similar to the words 'idiot' and 'imbecile,' which started out as words used by medical professionals to describe certain levels of intellectual disability," Borel said. "Now, if you ask anybody today, 'Is it OK to call somebody an idiot or imbecile?' they'd say 'No, those are insults.' "

In Texas, more than 750,000 individuals live with intellectual disabilities.

While a major focus is to get everyday people to stop using the "R-word" to describe others, Borel said the overall goal is to remove the word from the lexicon entirely.

"In common language, you'll hear people describe certain actions of their own, like, 'I forgot about that meeting I was supposed to have. How retarded can I be?' You know, I've heard people actually say things like this, where they'll self-deprecate themselves with that word," Borel said. "Hey, that's not appropriate either."

On a higher level, Borel noted that both federal laws and state codes in Texas have been changed in recent years to remove the "R-word" and replace it with more respectful terms, such as cognitive or intellectual disability.


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

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX