It's Disability Awareness Month in Indiana. One of the first events on the calendar is also part of a nationwide effort: tomorrow (March 6) is the point day for “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Part of an ongoing campaign that focuses ending the use of terms such as “retarded,” the R-Word Website, along with the group's Facebook page, seek pledges to eliminate demeaning language, along with efforts to share the effort.
The “r-word,” along with others, was once common (and used in descriptive designations), but continued abuse of its meaning, especially as a pejorative, have changed it into a derogatory insult. But this campaign is about more than just changing a few words. It also seeks to promote a more accepting and accommodating atmosphere.
People with all sorts of disabilities are increasingly becoming part of mainstream society today. And as that occurs, it's easy to forget the power of language and the connotations that words often carry. This is why “people-first language,” such as “a person who uses a wheelchair,” has become the preferred phrasing among disability groups. Everyone is a person first, and our society increasingly seems to be busy forgetting that. It's reminder that our words do matter!