Contributed by Aamir Sheriff

How many times have you heard someone use the word “retard” or “retarded”? For many people, the R-word may seem harmless, but for many others, it is a hurtful label. Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the R-word.

spread-the-word-to-end-the-word-march-5The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign was initiated by youth and empowers schools, organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support. The campaign is now global and is support by Special Olympics athletes and the Best Buddies. The aim is to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The annual day of awareness is held the first Wednesday of every March, which falls today, March 5th!

So how can YOU spread the word?  

  1. Pledge here to 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.
  2. Tell your friends, co-workers and family members about the importance of avoiding the use of the R-word.
  3. Plan an event in your community to spread the campaign. The official campaign website has many resources to help with this.
  4. Spread the word through social media! The campaign Facebook page is, the Twitter handle is @EndtheWord and the hashtag to use is #Rword. Share your stories and experiences with the R-word and let others know to do the same.
  5. Share the touching “Not Acceptable R-word public service announcement (PSA)” posted below.

Here in our province, the BC Self Advocacy Foundation assists people with developmental disabilities to become full, participating citizens in their own communities. Self-advocacy means speaking up and speaking out for your rights. Many people with developmental disabilities who are speaking up for their rights call themselves “self-advocates”. Their “No More Barriers” video is also a strong statement against the use of derogatory language such as the R-word.

So next time you hear somebody use the R-word to refer to someone with a developmental disability, remember to politely let them know that this word is no longer acceptable. Small actions like informing even your immediate network can make a big difference!