End use of habitually hurtful language

Feb. 25, 2015

Whenever anyone opens up their social media pages, they see comments about a myriad of different things. Those things can include disrespectful comments regarding disabled people.  These comments can include the word “retarded” which is considered derogatory. The word is so bad that it has been campaigned against in order to end it.

by Signe Trewyn
Opinion Editor

Most people use this word and do not think about what they are saying-their reason for it? They are not educated on the effect this word has on disabled individuals. Most of the time people do not think they are hurting someone with the words they are saying; if everyone else is saying it then it is alright.

It is a norm in our culture to use certain words to show emphasis on certain things or express how we feel. It is similar to why people say swear words, it is a form of expressing opinion or attitudes toward certain things.

Some people think that it all depends on what context the word is used in, saying: “That’s retarded” may not be as bad as saying: “You’re retarded.” In a way that might be true, however some people with disabilities are quite familiar with that word and the context the word is used in doesn’t matter.

The campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word” is an organization that specializes in the cessation of using the word altogether. The site contains stories of how the word affects their lives. The stories are also about how people have observed their peers using the word. There are also events dedicated to ending the word altogether.

There is a pledge button at the site where users can pledge against using the word and encourage their friends and family to do the same. Doing so can spread awareness which will allow people to rethink their speech and actions.

Best Buddies is an organization of people who interact with disable individuals and enrich their lives through their interactions. This organization campaigns and funds against the word so that more people are aware and willing to change their ways to benefit disabled individuals.

As a fan of the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, a movie about a family who has a family member who is disabled and people judge their family, I’ve seen how people with disadvantages and disabilities are treated and how it affects them. Using the word can cause sadness and make disabled people feel judged. These are people who need our help the most. Instead of offending them, help them.

What needs to be done is advocacy and spreading the word whenever someone takes the pledge against the word itself. As of March 2014, a total of 50,000 pledges have been made in support for Spread the Word to End the Word at www.therword.org. That way, more people will think before they speak and give people with disabilities their undivided attention. After all, they were born this way.