Spread the Word to End the Word

Students work to eliminate use of the “R” word


Last Wednesday was national Spread the Word to End the Word day. Students set up a table in the CMU to encourage people to pledge to stop using the R Word. Though the national event is only one day, the table was set up from Tuesday to Thursday to encourage more students to pledge their support of ending use of the word.Students were also encouraged to wear blue in support of the event on Wednesday.

Spread the Word to End the Word began in 2009, founded by two college students, Soeren Palumbo from Notre Dame and Tim Shriver from Yale, according to the event’s website.

This is only its third year on the MSUM campus, yet students showed strong support for ending the use of the R word. On Wednesday, after only two hours of operation 45 students had already pledged. The official website reports 471,697 pledges to date.

Jill Ulven, elementary inclusive education junior, was one of the students involved with encouraging people to pledge. When asked why she thought students should pledge to end the R word she said, “I don’t think people realize how hurtful it can be.”

Alyssa Visby, another elementary inclusive education junior, agreed and added, “People don’t realize how much it affects us.”

What exactly are people pledging to do when they sign their name? “You are pledging to not use the word because of negative connotations, and you are pledging to use alternative words,” Ulven explained.

Pledging was a simple process. There were two laptops set up at the table for students to access the website and add their name to the growing list of those promising to end the use of the R word.

According to the website, 200 million people around the world have disabilities, so the chances that a person knows someone whom the word would be degrading or hurtful towards is high.

A big milestone in the campaign to end the R word occurred in 2010. Rosa’s Law, a federal law created to end the use of the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” to be replaced with “intellectual disability” was signed by President Obama. Similarly, TV stations like F/X and MTV have added the R word to the list of words not allowed to be broadcast to audiences.
Even with these advancements, there is still a potent prejudice following people with intellectual disabilities. A recent poll showed that 60 percent of people worldwide believe that intellectually disabled people should be segregated in the workplace and in schools, according to the Spread the Word to End the Word website. “This is intolerable. We need to massive attitude change now to attack and reverse the stigma that is destructive to society in so many ways,” the website explains.

The event is largely sponsored by the Special Olympics and Best Buddies organizations. The Special Olympics even allowed the event to use its color blue for showing support to end the R word.

Spread the Word to End the Word is held every year on the first Wednesday of March, but students are encouraged to pledge any day, any time. Pledge information and general information about the movement and R word itself can be found by going to r-word.org.  Students can also show their support by following Spread the Word to End the Word on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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