A reminder about the ‘r-word’

Commentary by Chris Glaittli, social media intern

“That’s retarded.”

How many times have we said that?

How many times have we called our friends that?

New words are being created all the time (bae, selfie, twerk, hashtag, etc.) but there still is a problem with the old words we are using in our everyday language. The “r-word” can still be heard in casual conversation on Utah State University’s campus

We aren’t as bad as we used to be, thanks to the efforts of major campaigns like Spread the Word to End the Word, which encourages people to stop using the r-word.

Since it started in 2009, the campaign has over 500,000 online pledges from students, parents, and others who have pledged to stop using the word.

The pledge on the Spread the Word to End the Word website says this:

“I pledge and 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.”

It’s a strong statement.

Being on a college campus, there are many students who work with those with disabilities such as Cassidee Barber, a junior from Lehi, Utah who is majoring in special education.

Working with children and students through the College of Education, she has gained a lot of insight on the subject of the r-word.

“Saying the r-word is very degrading to people with disabilities. It is putting a label on them that shouldn’t be there,” Barber said.

According to Shane Johnson, the associate director for the Center for Persons with Disabilities, the number of people with disabilities on Utah State’s campus isn’t known. Because disclosure of a disability is a private matter, many people don’t disclose unless it’s necessary to get accommodations through the Disability Resource Center.

“We don’t know how many students might have a disability and not disclosed it, or even recognized that they have one, so you really don’t know who you are offending when you say the r-word,” Johnson said.

The r-word was a medical diagnosis at one time, but the accepted term now is ‘intellectual disability,’ said Sarah Stone, the director of the newest CPD program, Aggies Elevated.

“The r-word is now just ‘hate speech,’” she said.

Part of the Aggies Elevated program and the purpose of the CPD is to teach self-advocacy to everyone.

“Self-advocacy is being up to stand up for yourself,” Stone said. “If somebody is using the r-word or treating you disrespectfully, then you stand up and say ‘hey you know, that’s a stupid word.’“

It’s not necessary to take the online pledge, Stone said, but she urged people to promise themselves to stop using it in their everyday language and decrease ignorance and hurtful language.

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Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

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