Iowans are being encouraged to join an effort to refrain from using the word "retard." Mark Reed, president of Special Olympics Iowa, says people with intellectual disabilities view the word as a cruel and offensive slur.
"What we’re trying to do is educate people and raise their awareness about individuals with intellectual disabilities and how the ‘R’ word is very offensive to them and their families," Reed said. "We’re trying to encourage people to speak out and say ‘that’s not acceptable anymore.’ We should each hold ourselves accountable for not using that word."
The "R" word campaign rose from discussions at a youth summitt in February at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho. "The youth decided that their goal was spread the word to end the word, promote awareness and initiate change," Reed said. Five athletes from Iowa competed in the Special Olympics World Winter Games. Reed says a number of community and school based activities are planned around Iowa Tuesday as part of the national effort to eliminate use of the "R" word.
"One example, at Western Dubuque High School, they’re reporting that a group of students are putting forth an effort in educating students and staff about the derogatory use of the ‘R’ word both in and out of school," Reed said. "They’re planning a week of activities."
Actor John C. McGinley, of the TV show "Scrubs," is helping with the national campaign by making media appearances. Organizers say they hope to collect 100,000 online pledges at www.r-word.org .