Supporters of people with intellectual disabilities are planning rallies and pledge drives in Iowa this week that focus on halting the use of certain words they say are offensive. The second annual “End the R-Word Day” will be held nationwide on Wednesday, according to Joyce Allard, communications director for Special Olympics Iowa.

The Iowa group is partnering with Best Buddies International to increase awareness with youth, organizations and communities to stop using words like retard and retarded. Allard is encouraging people to visit a website to pledge not to use the words, with the goal of 100,000 pledges by Wednesday. Allard says there will be special events in several Iowa locations.

Allard says, “Best Buddies Iowa has a number of things underway and some schools in western Iowa and also eastern Iowa are starting to have plans such as a rally or having banners that people sign to stop using the R-word.” She says the use of those terms does have an impact on individuals and their families.

Allard says, “Most people don’t think of this as language that hurts but when you talk to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families and friends, they think other people don’t realize how offensive the word is and how much it can really hurt.” Events are planned in cities including: Des Moines, Mount Vernon, Omaha, Urbandale and Waverly. At the Omaha event, stations will be set up to give insight into what it might be like to have a disability — including auditory, visual, physical or learning.

Stations include playing catch while blindfolded or using tongs instead of hands, trying to follow muffled auditory directions, completing a difficult math worksheet in a limited time while being distracted, and writing your name using paint and a Q-tip held in your mouth. To pledge not to use the R-word, visit the website: “www.r-word.org“.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City