Best Buddies Wisconsin has launched a campaign to “Spread the Word to End the Word” as a way to encourage students throughout Milwaukee to stop using the “R-word” in derogatory ways.
As part of the campaign, students will take a pledge throughout March to avoid using “retard” or “retarded” as insults or slurs toward others.
Best Buddies Wisconsin’s pledge follows a broader national campaign driven by Best Buddies, Special Olympics and supporters of the organizations to raise awareness among the general public about the harm caused by the word. The campaign highlights Best Buddies Month, celebrated each March.
“The R-word can have dehumanizing and hurtful effects when used to describe someone with an intellectual disability,” said Andrea Brinkman, deputy director of development at Best Buddies Wisconsin. “‘Spread The Word to End the Word’ is a national campaign that encourages and educates students and individuals to think about its use and not say it in a derogatory way toward anyone.”
While the national campaign kicked off Wednesday, Best Buddies Wisconsin rallied support Saturday at a Hollywood-themed dance for middle school, high school and college students who are part of Best Buddies programs. The dance, held at James W. Pihos Cultural Center in Milwaukee, emphasized inclusion for attendees with and without disabilities.
“Up to three percent of the world’s population have intellectual disabilities – that’s 200 million people around the world,” said Theresa Nemetz, state director of Best Buddies Wisconsin. “It’s the largest disability population in the world and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are capable and enjoy sharing life experiences…as well as working together toward excellence and mutually enriching one-to-one friendships as demonstrated through our programs.”
The “Spread the Word to End the Word” pledge is open to anyone interested in taking it. The pledge can be accessed and signed at http://www.r-word.org/Default.aspx. Students in area Best Buddies chapters are also hosting rallies and banner signings throughout March to spread the message behind the pledge.
Best Buddies Wisconsin works to foster leadership and friendship opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through 34 area chapters.