by Caleb Workman
News Editor – The Lance
How many times have you come across a time or situation where you or someone you know has used the word retarded to describe it? How many times have you heard it just walking through somewhere in your everyday life?
For some people on campus, it’s been too many times for their liking and they’ve taken it in their own hands to see an end to it.
Best Buddies UWindsor and the Disability Studies Student Association thought it best to personalize a campaign around campus where they asked individuals to sign a pledge to not use the word or stand for it if others used it. They started at the CAW Student Centre and made their way through the campus March 22 to help get the word out of the campus for good. Shyane Wiegers and Jessica Snyder are the ambassadors behind using more positive language on campus, specifically in the case of the word “retarded.”
“From personal experience I find that when a lot of people come across a situation that they don’t like, for many people, that’s the first word that comes to their head,” said Wiegers. “That word is unacceptable and very offensive to people with disabilities.”
Weigers said people get so used to this word they don’t realize how bad or offensive it may actually be until someone confronts of them – hence their idea to make people sign the banner pledge to stop saying the word.
“I personally advocate for this outside of this position and in my own life,” said Wiegers. “There’s thousands of other words that we could use that aren’t offensive – why do we have to use this specific one?” Weigers said the old word to refer to someone with mental disabilities was mental retardation but it is now referred to as intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities. Snyder said they picked the ‘r-word’ specifically because they hear it the most around campus and it directly affects and relates to their group.
“It’s always important to use the proper language because it shows that we are not discriminating or incriminating on a certain group, whether we realize it or not,” said Snyder. “Positive language is something that will not offend anyone and will have an impacting way to uplift rather than offend and put down.”
Snyder said there are a lot of people who just don’t know how offensive the word is or what the actual connotation of it is. “We’re lucky enough to be taught about things like this through our work in the group but others have to be told,” said Snyder. “It’s important to bring this to students on campus because once someone is educated, they can also help spread the word to end the word.”
Laura Chubb, president of the DSSA, said the fight to end the word is a passion of both groups and they wanted to do what they could to make the biggest impact possible.
“It’s important to use person first language and not discriminatory language when describing people,” said Chubb. “This also relates to situations. If you wouldn’t use something to describe a person you wouldn’t want to use it to describe a situation because it’s still an offensive word.”
Chubb said she hopes through the day more people will advocate for people with disabilities as well as help educate people on the word and those with disabilities.
“Our personal hatred for the word kind of drove us to start this initiative,” said Chubb. “We’re very happy with the turnout and we’re thankful for everyone who started advocating and continues to advocate for those with disabilities.”
For more information on Best Buddies, check out their Facebook Page, Best Buddies UWindsor Chapter and for more information on the DSSA, visit their Facebook Page, Disability Studies Student Association.