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A Vocabulary of Respect: Spread the Word to End the Word

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GRAPHIC: This is Spread the Word to End the Word day, an effort to get all people to stop using the word "retarded." Graphic courtesy of Special Olympics.
GRAPHIC: This is Spread the Word to End the Word day, an effort to get all people to stop using the word "retarded." Graphic courtesy of Special Olympics.
March 4, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - Residents across Iowa and the nation are being asked to take time today to stop and think about how their words may disparage others - whether that is the intent or not. This is "Spread the Word to End the Word" day, when people are asked to remove the word "retarded" from their vocabulary.

"When we use the word, we disparage those who do have an intellectual disability," said Rik Shannon, public policy manager for the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council. "What we really would like to see people do is select language that's more respectful and inclusive."

While today is focused on getting everyday people to stop using the "R-word," Shannon said, on a
higher level, the state of Iowa has stopped using the term in health, eduction and labor policy, following the lead of the federal government.

"In 2010, President Obama signed what's called Rosa's Law, which removed the terms 'mental retardation' and 'mentally retarded' from federal code language," he said, "and replaced it with terms such as an 'individual with an intellectual disability,' or simply 'intellectual disability.' "

In Iowa, Shannon said, there are nearly 50,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities and their family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, all of whom deserve the same respect as everyone else.

Details about the observance are online at r-word.org. The text of Rosa's Law is at govtrack.us and Iowa resources are at idaction.org.

John Michaelson/Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA