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ARISE Advocates “Spread the Word to End the Word”

Names Left to Right Back Row: Sherrie McCann and Billie McCann Front Row: Gordon Gaebel, Sarah Skillen and Jim Cronk
Names Left to Right Back Row: Sherrie McCann and Billie McCann Front Row: Gordon Gaebel, Sarah Skillen and Jim Cronk

“Spread the Word to End the Word” is an ongoing effort to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the r-word.

On March 3, organizations and groups held various events in communities across the country. As part of this nationwide effort six members of the Self-Advocacy Council of Oswego County, a group of individuals with disabilities who work on advocacy issues to make our community more inclusive for all, had a display in the Student Center at SUNY Oswego. They handed out 60 stickers, over 50 bookmarks and about 100 information sheets to bring awareness to the students, our future leaders, and faculty about the importance to use language which communicates respect. Students were asked to refrain from using the r-word and to go to the website www.r-word.org and make a pledge to use language which communicates respect.

The word retarded, especially when used as a put down, robs people with developmental disabilities of their dignity. People with developmental disabilities are friends to all; they are siblings, parents, athletes, children, classmates, co-workers and mentors. Spread the word to end the word wants everyone to use the new “r” word which is respect. Think before you speak and replace put downs with respect. The movement is asking for your help in creating a more accepting world for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and all those people that may appear different, but have unique gifts and talents to share with the world.

“We can all work together to accomplish this and to end the use of the word retard(ed)”, said Ken Skillen, who is the president of the Self-Advocacy Council which meets at ARISE. He found the students very receptive. Sarah Skillen added: “It hurts. We need to work toward a real change of attitudes now and reverse the stigma that is so destructive to the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.” Sarah is married to Ken and also attended the event.

Anyone who wants to join the Self-Advocacy Council, which meets monthly at ARISE, 9 Fourth Avenue in Oswego or to get more information may call Ken Skillen at ARISE at 342-4088 ext. 226.