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WXXI Local Stories
6:52 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Ending the R-Word in the ROC

Rochester rallied to stop the use of the R-Word - specifically" retard" or "retarded" - on Wednesday. It's part of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

"I used to be somebody who used that word,” says Sarah Defendorf, who works with kids with intellectual disabilities. She is one of more than a hundred people supporting the movement to not use the r-word.

"I didn't realize how derogatory it can be until I could see how people feel when they're called those words. I think it's a word that doesn't need to be used."

Defendorf signed the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign pledge, which was on a large poster in the cafe at the URMC. Participants also sign-in electronically on a tablet.

"Signing the pledge shows how many people in Rochester actually support the movement,” says Stephanie Straka, a development pediatrician at the Golisano Children's Hospital. “Then nationally, we can use those pledges as numbers to help things that change in Congress, things that change within the media - to really help others and the media understand that there's a population out there when you use the r-word they are really hurt.”

The effort asks people to choose other words when talking about people with intellectual disabilities.

The director of the Golisano Foundation, Ann Costello, says the offensive word is increasingly creeping into everyday language.  

"And often time’s people who use it don't mean to be hurtful. It’s just a common word. But we need to education others and raise awareness that this does hurt people with intellectual disabilities. It perpetuates the stigma and the negative perceptions."

This is the foundation’s fourth year spearheading the campaign pledge.

Spread the Word the End the Word was started by youth and is an ongoing effort of Special Olympics International, Best Buddies and other supporters.

Costello says she's hoping the campaign helps people to stop and think before using the r-word. And then replacing it with this one: respect.

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