[nfbwatlk] Activists want world to stop using the 'R' word; Campaign deems term offensive and derogatory

Jedi loneblindjedi at samobile.net
Fri May 27 01:22:38 UTC 2011

Just curious. If you could develop your own advert, what would you have 
it say regarding intellectual disability or disability in general?


Original message:
> Thanks to Gaston for forwarding the following article.  Though it doesn't
> deal directly with blindness, you can see from my comments following the
> article why I think it's relevant to this list.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gaston Bedard [mailto:gasbedard at videotron.ca]
> Sent: May 26, 2011 1:43 PM
> Subject: Activists want world to stop using the 'R' word; Campaign deems
> term offensive and derogatory

> Activists want world to stop using the 'R' word; Campaign deems term
> offensive and derogatory

>         Frank Appleyard
>         Ottawa Citizen , May 26, 2011

> Activists calling for the eradication of a word that they call "hurtful" and
> "dehumanizing" may have little love for it -but they would prefer if you
> refrain from calling it "retarded."

> "Retard" -an epithet common to schoolyards and workplaces across North
> America -is being targeted for eradication by the Special Olympics in a
> campaign called Spread the Word to End the Word.

> The campaign seeks to remove the R-word from English vernacular, calling it
> offensive and derogatory to people with intellectual disabilities. Some
> describe "retard" as a lazy but innocent substitute for "stupid" or "dumb,"
> but advocates for the disabled say that the word is as hurtful as any racial
> slur.

> "There's so much negative meaning and stereotyping at-tached to the word,
> that we basically need to eradicate its use," said Michael Bach, the
> executive vice-president of the Canadian Association for Community Living.

> Bach said the word has been under fire for decades, since it was established
> as a medical term. Today, the phrase "retarded" has fallen out of favour
> with the medical community, which tends to refer instead to intellectual or
> developmental disabilities.

> "What the word says is that these people are somehow less than human or that
> they're a group to be targeted and to be demeaned," Bach said. "When you use
> that word it defines so clearly a boundary between people with intellectual
> disabilities and the rest of humanity."

> Bach said that plans are in the works for a made-in-Canada campaign
> mirroring the efforts of the Special Olympics, targeting the use of word
> among youth, media and government.

> The U.S. campaign to strike the word from our collective vocabulary is
> backed by the NBA and some of its most prominent players, as well as Lauren
> Potter, star of the hit TV show Glee.

> Shana Poplack, the Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and a professor at
> the University of Ottawa, said this attempt at rewriting the English
> language holds promise.

> Poplack said that the use and meaning of "retard" has transformed since its
> introduction. "The word has become semantically bleached, so really none of
> the original meaning is retained," she said. "I wonder if the younger
> generation even knows what the original meaning was?"

> (End of article. My comments follow.)

> The problem isn't with the word.  The problem is that many really do believe
> people with intellectual disabilities truly are less valuable human beings.
> That's a horrible and inaccurate belief, but changing the words used to
> discuss intellectual disabilities will not change that underlying belief.  I
> remember when "retarded" was a new term, so much nicer than idiot, imbecile,
> or moron.  These people are retarded, which means slowed down or delayed.
> Retarded was so much nicer and would change attitudes.  It wasn't long
> before "RE-tard" became a playground insult.  Why?  Because our society
> places such unreasonably high value on intellectual prowess that those who
> lack it aren't respected.  I've been taught some of the most valuable life
> lessons I've ever learned by men and women who couldn't even take, much less
> excel at, an IQ test.  Call them imbeciles (which used to be the medical
> term), call them severely retarded (which also used to be the medical term),
> or call them people with intellectual disabilities, (which seems to be the
> current term.)  Whatever you call them, the new term will take on the same
> pejorative meaning as all the previous terms unless the underlying value
> system changes.

> I don't like "people first" language because I believe it reinforces
> stereotypes, despite the claim of proponents that it will do the opposite.
> In our case, The problem isn't with the word "blind," the problem is with
> what people think about blindness.  By dancing around the word, we give
> people the notion that our situation is so distasteful that it shouldn't be
> mentioned directly in polite society.  In Victorian England, women didn't
> have legs, they had limbs.  I'd rather change the meaning of the word
> "blind" in people's minds than change the word.

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