Accessibility Queen’s tackled the use of the “R-word” in an event titled “Spread the Word to End the Word” held in the ARC on Wednesday.
The event included an informational poster board and an opportunity for students to speak with Accessibility Queen’s club members about the negative impact of using the word “retard” in everyday conversation. As a symbolic gesture, students were also able to pledge against using the word to signify allyship with individuals with disabilities.
Accessibility Queen’s aims to raise awareness about issues surrounding people with disabilities. This event is one of many events they host, including the annual Sexuality and Disability Summit.
According to club co-chairs Clarabelle Lee and Odelle Ma, ArtSci ‘18, the decision to bring back this event was meant to raise awareness about use of the word. During her time on campus, Ma said the word has been used to negatively refer to those who have disabilities.
“I still hear the ‘R-word’ being used in everyday conversation, so we definitely wanted an initiative that drew attention to the problem,” Ma told The Journal.
AMS Commissioner of Social Issues Ramna Safeer shared her thoughts about the event and the use of the “R-word” with The Journal via email.
“When a word that was historically used to refer to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is used to describe things we find stupid or unpleasant, we’re conflating real people and their very real experiences with things that we find stupid and unpleasant,” Safeer wrote.
“By continuing to use the R-word, we perpetuate ideas that further stigmatize people with disabilities and give power to the systems of oppression…that [they] must navigate every single day,” she continued.
Accessibility Queen’s is also focused on the promotion of person-first language on campus, which involves referring to individuals as “living with a disability,” rather than as a “disabled person.”
Ma and Lee also spoke to the importance of incorporating this style of speech into everyday conversation. They hope the End the Word event will encourage students to think proactively about the words they use.
“There’s a dictionary full of words, so why choose one word that hurts a group of people?” Lee said.
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