Ending use of the 'R' word

July 31, 2011 (CHICAGO)

It is not an easy thing to change which is why there's a major campaign to eliminate the "r-word."

Spread the Word to End the Word is an on-going effort to raise awareness about the dehumanizing and hurtful of the word "retarded."

"Not Acceptable" is a public service announcement that features an actress with Down syndrome explaining why the r-word is wrong. A number of organizations around the country are using the public service announcement as a way to educate people about the need to stop using that word. Illinois Best Buddies is one group that's spreading the word.

'"In each program we do, different initiatives to get the word out about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. We have over 70 schools in Illinois and they do a lot of awareness in the schools to get other students and faculty to take the pledge to not us the r-word," said Illinois Best Buddies Program Supervisor Shannan Hautma. "Otis and Rachel both are Buddy Ambassadors. So they go to school and speak about their experiences with the r-words, being called the r-word and their feeling about it and why it's important not to use it."

Buddy Ambassador Rachel Lipke is 29 years old.

"It's a very hurtful, mean word, and I don't like when it's used. Even you know doesn't matter if it towards someone with a disability or not," Lipke said.

Lipke says the public service announcement is amazing.

"It's such a strong word that people need to hear how it makes other people feel And I feel like it was done so well, I felt pride, I felt excitement, I was speechless, to be honest. I didn't know what to say or think at first," Lipke said.

Otis Brown, 25, says it's bad to use the r-word.

"It's used as a slur to call us stupid or dumb, but we're not stupid or dumb. Some people don't know the meaning of the r-word that's mental retardation," Brown said.

Brown has high hopes for the public service announcement.

"I liked it but I was happy that they showed the ad but I still feel like there's more to do, especially not just in my community, but I feel like there's more to do as society for people with disabilities success wise," Brown said.

Best Buddies has been trying for years remove the r-word as state, according to Director Eileen Murphy says.

"It's a slow process. Our first step is to get rid of it in normal language and when you've having a conversation using it as a negative word when you're referring to somebody," Murphy said.

"It doesn't need to change tomorrow, doesn't need to change 10 years from now it needs to change now," Lipke said.

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