You can help Special Olympics make ‘respect’ the new R-word
Our moral and ethical codes guide our daily actions. How one acts and speaks toward others can be traced back to what we view as tolerable versus intolerable. The mainstream use of the “R-word” — retarded — is one of those circumstances in which there is a constant battle within the community of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those who fight for them.
The R-word is common slang widely used by individuals young and old with little thought of whom it may offend. The word stems from the medical term “mental retardation,” which was introduced in 1961 to diagnose individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 2010, the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” have been removed from federal health, education and labor policy.
The R-word can deeply insult, cause pain and confuse not only the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities but those closest to them as well. This was obvious in 2016 in Amarillo at a Special Olympics Texas aquatics practice, when one team experienced the word’s painful impact.
A community member’s use of the R-word directed toward a group of Special Olympics Texas athletes left coaches, parents and family members infuriated, saddened and shaken. Even worse, those athletes were frightened and confused. They did not want to go back to the pool and were hesitant to attend the area aquatics competition for which they had trained so intensely.
Instead of letting the dark extinguish the light, parents, community members and athletes decided to use this pain as an opportunity to unite them to rally and fight for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to pledge to eliminate the use of the R-word.
This month, Special Olympics Texas is highlighting some of its frontrunners fighting to eliminate the word. The effort involves Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, education and community groups, plus families and volunteers who will be challenged to take the pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word — a campaign that anyone can join at www.rword.org.
We have a long journey to fully terminate the use of this slur; however, we can all do our part in educating those around us. We can all be a voice for inclusion, tolerance and acceptance of all people.
Although the fight is far from over, we should not be discouraged. There is hope in the faces of those individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Focusing on their relentless spirit, resilient nature and remarkable stories will only strengthen our will to continue the fight for “respect” — the new R-word.
Taking the pledge is the first step toward changing the world for a large population within our society. For those looking to take a more active role in creating an inclusive environment in your community, consider becoming a teammate.
Since 1989, Special Olympics has offered Unified Sports: a program that enables people with and without intellectual and disabilities to team up and play various sports together. Over the last few years, the initiative has grown vastly, showing that society is becoming more inclusive, especially among our youth. This program has opened the eyes to many — enabling them to see how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have abilities and are competitive, just like themselves.
Yet, Special Olympics Texas cannot provide these worldclass programs without volunteers and generous donors. With more than 4,000 Central Texas area athletes involved in the program, it costs Special Olympics Texas $150 to fund a full year’s worth of competition, training and health screenings for each athlete.
As you take a stand against the R-word, please also consider making a generous contribution to Special Olympics Texas and help give people with intellectual developmental disabilities an outlet to experience respect and their competitive abilities.
Re: Feb. 21 commentary, “Herman: Wrestling with gender identity.”
A well-meaning friend asked me why transgender people chose something so ridiculous as bathrooms to be their defining civil rights fight. Don’t they care more about health care, anti-discrimination laws and civic tolerance?
My answer was: They didn’t pick this fight. Lawmakers and influential people made that decision for them. Ken Herman’s unfortunate fascination with transgender folks and sports is another example of this.
Well-meaning though he may be, Herman fails to grasp that using his platform for banal and hyperspecific nonsense — such as what team a transgender student may play for — serves only to elevate the trivial and cheapen what is truly important. He should look outside
Feb. 19 article, “Hundreds seek audience with U.S. Rep. Roger Williams at Dripping Springs restaurant.”
I attended the town hall meeting in Dripping Springs and helped sign in 255 constituents of U.S. Rep. Roger Williams. He had been invited to this public event in hopes he would listen to the concerns of the people he represents. Although Williams’ office stated “(he) will always humbly listen to the thoughts and concerns of all his constituents,” he instead chose to avoid our event to attend a private members-only meeting of the North Hays Republican Group.
His spokesman incorrectly dismissed our event as a Dripping Springs Democratic Action meeting, adding, “it’s clear that civil, substantive discourse on issues is not their true agenda.”
The people I met and talked to on Sunday were polite and respectful. They have legitimate concerns with health care, banks, and immigration policy. It is a pity that he is uncomfortable meeting people who have different points of view than his own.
A feral hog is kept in a pen at Ortiz Game Management in New Braunfels. A state plan to poison feral hogs must be stopped, an Audubon Society official writes.
Adriana Vera Flores (right), 18, hugs friend Viva Lopez, 21, during a bowling competition at the 24th annual Special Olympics Texas Winter Games on Feb. 3 at Dart Bowl.