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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

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Across Minnesota 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 Julie Hertzog, director of the PACER Center's National Bullying Prevention Center.

"Recognizing that the 'R-word' is offensive, we want to remove it from our society so that students with disabilities feel included and accepted and are identified for their abilities, not for their disabilities," said Hertzog, the mother of a son with Down Syndrome.

While today is focused on getting everyday people to stop using the "R-word," Hertzog said that on a higher level, recent years have seen its use removed from the text of local and national code and law.

"Words really do affect our perceptions about people," she said, "and the term 'mental retardation' is being replaced by 'intellectual disability' in much of our medical dictionaries and our laws."

According to the state Department of Health, more than one in five Minnesotans has some type of disability that impacts his or her daily life.

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

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN