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Op-Ed: HELP END THE “R” WORD

(BASED ON A PRESS RELEASE)--For years people with disabilities have not only been discriminated against,  but also bullied. Name calling is a significant sign of bullying, and a tool which is used to demean others. With hurtful names such as "Retard" or "Retarded" some of the most vulnerable members of our community are marginalized, and made to feel less than significant. 

But a new day is dawning, and around the world family, friends, and especially people with intellectual disabilities are pledging “Spread The Word To End The (old)  R- Word” and help promote the new R-word: Respect.

March was Developmental Disability Awareness month and it had kicked off with the theme “Building an inclusive community”. What better way to build an inclusive community than by making a pledge to end the old “R” word, and replace it with a better one. Every  man, woman and child deserves respect and dignity, no matter what their station in life, their abilities, or their disabilities.

The importance of treating others with dignity and respect can never be over-emphasized. It is the basis of  genuine progress and a true indication of our concern for our fellow man. It is the essence of the golden rule.

In October 2010, President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law” mandating Federal statutes to remove the term “mental retardation” and replacing it with “intellectual disability”. The new term “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” will replace the R-word in federal health, education and labor policy. The rights of individuals with disabilities will remain the same.

Rosa’s Law was named for Rosa Marcellino, a 9 year old girl from Maryland who has Down's Syndrome. The initiation came from her 14 year old brother who did not like hearing the R-word whenever school teachers and people referenced his sister. Rosa and her brother worked with state legislators to pass the law within the state of Maryland, and  U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski took it to the next level, sponsoring the bill at the U.S. Congressional level.

We as a society need to realize that everyone defines “normal” from their own perspective. What appears normal to you may not appear normal to others. We need to embrace the fact that everyone is unique, and one of the best ways to build an inclusive community is to embrace diversity. It does not separate us, but makes us stronger as a people, as a nation.

Let's embrace the new R word - Respect. To make a person's life more meaningful to the community in which they live...  “Spread the Word, To End The R-Word"  and replace it with the new one: Respect.



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