3/6/13: Erie County Office of the Disabled Helps Spread the Word to End the Word

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:10pm

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Outreach is part of national campaign encouraging people to stop using the word “retard” 

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, the Erie County Office for the Disabled was joined by numerous other agencies providing services to the intellectually disabled in taking part in a national effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word” during an event at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo. Participants strive to raise societal consciousness about the dehumanizing effects of the word “retard(ed)”, and encourage people to pledge to stop using the word. Wednesday’s event featured a brief presentation, performances, and informational tables from participating agencies.

“Hurtful and divisive language is always wrong and has no place in conversations, but unfortunately some people don’t realize just how hurtful and derogatory the r-word is,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “There’s nothing funny about it. When we make that simple pledge to stop using that word, it shows the people around us that we are committed to being more inclusive, respectful, and caring. Words have power, and I hope everyone will set a great example by taking the pledge.”

The “Spread the Word” campaign was created by youth with and without intellectual disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games, and is intended to engage school organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support. While the effort’s annual day of awareness is held on the first Wednesday of March, communities and schools interested in participating can do so year-round through pledge drives, youth rallies, and online engagement.

“Today’s event provides a great opportunity for community advocates to assemble and educate the public about language that is hurtful, not to one specific group, but to all people,” said Frank Cammarata, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled. “We are providing awareness to the entire county that the r-word is hurtful as well as so many other words meant to demean, and needs to be considered before being spoken.”

Agencies taking part in today’s “Spread the Word” event included Self-Advocates of NYS (“SANYS”), Adaptive Watersports, People, Inc., The Museum of DisABILITY, Kids on the Block Puppeteers, the Disability Education and Advocacy Network (“DEAN”), United Voices for Change, Aktion Club, People Helping People, People, Inc. Core Advocacy, Freedom Self-Advocacy Group, and LGBT Advocacy Group.

In 2010, the federal government enacted “Rosa’s Law”, which takes its name and inspiration from 9-year-old Rosa Marcellino and removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from all federal health, education, and labor policies, replacing them with “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability”. Also in 2010, New York State changed the name of its oversight agency in this field from the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability (“OMRDD”) to the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”). Over 43 states have passed or introduced legislation to remove “mental retardation” from laws and replace it with more respectful and appropriate language.

For more information:

On the Erie County Office for the Disabled, visit      http://www2.erie.gov/ecod/

On the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, visit      http://www.r-word.org/Default.aspx