The onset of collegiate bullying and insensitivity towards students with differences has created a culture in which the “Words Can Never Hurt Me” clause becomes quite weak.
To take a stand against derogatory language, Special Olympics and an organization known as Best Buddies have launched the “Stop the R-Word” campaign. Through this campaign, people are encouraged to pledge against using the word retard(ed) in their daily vernacular. To learn more about the efforts, visit www.r-word.org.
On March 7, 2012, Special Olympics and Best Buddies held the National “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day. In conjunction with this nation-wide event, Saint Louis University’s circle of Omicron Delta Kappa held a signature drive and encouraged students to be aware of how they use words.
“ODK membership is comprised of some of the greatest leaders on campus. As such, we wanted to encourage SLU students to follow our lead and eliminate this word from our vocabulary,” Julie Silver, Vice President of Saint Louis University’s ODK Circle, said. “This was such a great cause and we see harmful language as such a nasty element of college life. It’s our job, as leaders on campus, to take the first step towards educating our peers and making a change.”
In addition to spreading awareness and encouraging student, staff and faculty support throughout the day, the SLU ODK circle gathered nearly 250 pledges against using the r-word.
“I really enjoyed educating people about the National ‘Spread the Word’ Day event,” Silver said. “It was great to see how many people were in support of the initiative. As long as the goal of eliminating use of the word is present, then we are making great strides.”
The importance of People-First Language has become a large topic of discussion throughout colleges and universities. Educating students that a classmate is a “person with a disability” versus a “disabled person” is not an easy task. However, each small step forward makes the process worthwhile.