Club aligns to pledge awareness
Lesley Stevenson | Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Wednesday, members of Special Olympics Notre Dame and Best Buddies, two clubs dedicated to serving individuals with intellectual disabilities, will call upon their fellow students to participate in “End the R-Word Day” by signing banners and taking a pledge to stop using “retarded” as an offensive term, Special Olympics Notre Dame co-president and junior Laura Gardner said.
“End the R-Word Day is a day about raising awareness about the dehumanizing effects of the word retarded for those with intellectual disabilities,” Gardner said. “The movement was started by Soeren Palumbo, who was a Notre Dame grad, and Tim Sharver from Yale in 2009.”
Special Olympics Notre Dame co-president and senior Mo Connelly said using the word “retarded” often seems harmless but in fact offends people with intellectual disabilities by making them feel marginalized and inferior.
“Many people often say, ‘it is only a word,’ but that is just not the case,” Connelly said. “In our society today, the R-word is used in a context that relates individuals with intellectual disabilities with something bad or wrong.
“In order for everyone to truly practice acceptance and tolerance in our culture, the first step to take is to promote inclusive language that does not set apart a group of individuals as any less of a person than another.”
Gardner said events throughout the day will draw attention to the “dehumanizing” effects of the R-word on individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“Basically it invalidates their humanity,” Gardner said. “They are intelligent; they’re sisters, fathers, sons, friends. It’s a slur that puts people down.”
Members of Special Olympics Notre Dame will be stationed in the LaFortune Student Center, the Hesburgh Library and at both dining halls during meal times and will ask students to show support for End the R-Word Day. Best Buddies will also host events to raise awareness, Gardner said.“We’re doing banner signings for students on campus to pledge with their signature to stop using the word retarded in a derogatory way, and Best Buddies is having their fashion show with models from a local center,” she said.
Palumbo, a former Notre Dame Special Olympics president, initiated the first-ever “End the R-Word Day” while he was still a student at Notre Dame, Connelly said.
“[Palumbo] decided to announce it as he was presenting for a Special Olympics event over five years ago,” Connelly said. “Luckily the idea spread like wild fire, and he was able to work with Special Olympics National to begin the ‘Spread the Word’” campaign and truly jump start this magnificent cause.”
Connelly said students who are not involved with Notre Dame Special Olympics or Best Buddies should still participate by taking the pledge to stop using the word retarded.
“Sign our banners and encourage others to do the same,” she said. “Most importantly, remember that our campaign is a year round effort to end the R-word. Have the courage to remove it from your vocabulary, and encourage others to do the same.”
Contact Lesley Stevenson at [email protected]