Appalachian Educators host ‘R-Word’ campaign

Chelsey Fisher

Appalachian Educators held a two-day Special Olympics R-Word Campaign to spread awareness about the negative use of the word “retarded” April 4 and 5 in Plemmons Student Union and Reich College of Education.

Special education major Kelly Andrews said she created the event after the Special Olympics contacted her and asked if Appalachian Educators would be willing host an awareness event.

“If I hear someone using the R-word, I explain why it is hurtful and what it means,” Andrews said.

In Plemmons Student Union, a contact table was set up that allowed students to discuss their experiences with the R-word, sign a poster and a pledge to not use the term “retarded” in a negative way.

“The problem is lack of knowledge,” Andrews said. “If people don’t know what they are saying is wrong or mean, they aren’t going to change.”

Andrews said the use of the word can be degrading and inaccurate.

In the Reich College of Education building, Appalachian Educators, Special Olympics, Autism Speaks, Student Council of Exceptional Children, Student Diverse abilities program and Highlands Association for Child Development and Advocacy each had tables with posters to educate students on the discrimination faced by disabled students.

Celebrities are also getting involved in the movement, doing public service announcements on the issue. From the television show “Glee,” Jane Lynch and her sister created a PSA to encourage people to be more accepting.

Celebrities have used humor to to talk about this issue so it isn’t awkward, Andrews said.

“The R- word was big in high school, but people just didn’t understand how to relate to someone who has special needs,” Andrews said. “They have just as much to offer.”

Story: NATASHA BOSTOK, Intern News Reporter