Posts Tagged ‘retarded’
The “R” Word: A Challenge to Bloggers.
Stop the “R” Word
March 6, 2013 is designated “Stop the ‘R’ Word day. If you go to their website they have many ideas for activities and actions. If we each do one thing, we can make a difference for the future of our children. Please share your thoughts and actions in the comments.
David Hinsburger and the “R” word.
David Hinsburger is an award-winning author and advocate for people with disabilities. His article titled: The People who “ARE” the “R” Word is a must read classic for anyone who doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about.
My Letter to a Major Blogger
As promised in my post “Definitions of “Retarded”, this is the letter I wrote to a major blogger when he used the words “retarded” and “idiot” in one of his posts. It is edited for this post.
I have followed your blog ____ for a long time and enjoy your stories, ideas and writing style. However, I have issues with your use of the words: “retarded, idiot, moron and imbecile.”
You have made strong statements about using whatever words you want–even if they offend people and hit their hot buttons.
You can use words like “idiot, moron, imbecile, crip, tard…,” but why?
I agree this is America and defend your right to freedom of speech. I agree people who find these words offensive can just unsubscribe. But… you are a smart and thoughtful person. Why would you want to purposely offend vulnerable people?
I would rather believe you don’t understand how much these words hurt.
Mental Retardation–two words that matter.
My son has the label of “mental retardation” now called an “intellectual disability.” Because of those two words, he was not allowed to go to public school.
Because of those two words we had to spend three years in court, costing thousands of dollars. We, along with other parents, had to prove our children were human and had the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We had to prove in court that our son would benefit from being around other people and his mere presence on the school grounds would not harm other children. Because of those two words he was not allowed to participate in swimming lessons with the other kids in our neighborhood PUBLIC park. Because of those two words our family has been refused to be served in a restaurant and a Doctor refused to have our son for a patient…need I go on?
But our problems were minor compared to people with the label of intellectual disability in the past.Parallels in Time: A History of People with Disabilities
Just a generation ago, because of those two words, people were treated as animals instead of humans. They were sterilized, given doses of radioactive materials in their oatmeal. They were taken from their families (“for their own good”) and warehoused in inhuman institutions. Some were not given clothes and had to sleep on straw. They were denied even the most basic human rights–all because one psychologist in one situation gave them one test and labeled them those two words.
Most history books have made people with disabilities invisible. So, you probably aren’t aware, but the words: “moron, idiot and imbecile” came straight from the medical manuals of less than 40 years ago.
There are still churches which will not allow people with the label of those two words to marry, some churches do not even allow “those” children to attend their services or receive the sacraments. Many private schools and churches legally still segregate and discriminate against our children with those two words.
There are many normal couples who joyfully want a baby–until they hear those two words, and then immediately abort. There are Baby Doe cases where if the baby has Down syndrome and is assumed to have mental retardation, the family refuses to take the baby home from the hospital and refuses to allow the baby to have food. There are cases of “wrongful birth” where the parents sue the Doctors for allowing their child with “mental retardation” for being born.
In 2012 we can add the case of baby Amelia Riveria who was refused a transplant because she had an intellectual disability. The hospital has recently apologized.
“Mental Retardation, retard, retarded” are not funny words”
In Ohio, the state legislature passed a bill in 2009 to remove the words “Mental Retardation” from state agencies and its documents. This was the work of numerous advocates and thousands of hours of public hearings.
This is a civil rights movement where we are fighting for the right of our children to live, work and recreate in the community. The right to be seen as human beings and citizens of this great country.
Sticks and Stones … and words can hurt.
When a label carries enough stigma that the label alone can cause discrimination–the label is a problem.
The civil rights movement of the 60′s laid the ground work for Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act…. and our civil rights legislation, The American with Disabilities Act (1990). If you look at the closing statements in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) you will see the school district’s argument, (paraphrased) “If you let negro children in the public schools, the next thing you know the school will have to educate retarded children and Indians.”
In 2012, our children have the right to go to public schools, and restaurants cannot refuse to serve us, or ask us to leave because they don’t like “the way we look”.
This is NOT ancient history. This is NOT some group of radical parents and advocates who just want people to be politically correct.
Churches, non-public schools and organizations can still discriminate and decide who they allow in their churches but because so many of our children are going to school and living with their families in the communities, there is not the fear that once existed. And the medical professionals have dramatically changed their low expectations and acknowledge the limits of the IQ test and other measures they used to label people.
Sure this came about because of civil rights court cases and federal legislation, but mostly it happened as decent people decided to give people who were different a chance. I know it is unpopular to say that the Federal Government and Laws are important. Many people say there is too much government. I wish there was more protections and enforcement for vulnerable people.
Challenge to Bloggers
My challenge to all bloggers is:
Will you take cheap shots and continue hateful language which hurts people? Or, will you use respectful language and recognize people with intellectual disabilities are people and at least give us all a chance to build a better world.
Words have power. You have power.
Will you use your power to continue to hurt people, or for change?
I know you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but for those of us (like me) who have children with IQs below 50, children who were labeled “idiots” by our Doctors and medical professionals and who are struggling every day to try and make a better life for our children, the words: “retarded, idiot, moron, imbecile” are downright offensive. So forgive me that I rant today instead of ignoring it.
I know the words are used everywhere and people aren’t particularly trying to hurt people with intellectual disabilities but I would appreciate your consideration.
The blogger I sent this letter to agreed to not use the offensive language only asking that he remain anonymous. I consider that a victory for all of us, and it has made me a loyal fan.
Rosa’s Law was passed and signed by President Obama in 2009 to use People First language in all Federal documents. Love, NOT Labels| Rosa’s Law
I am hoping other bloggers will take up the challenge and use People First language and the words “intellectual disability” in a respectful way.
This is a fresh start. We can do it right this time.
What about you?
Will you take the challenge to remove the “R” word and other hurtful words from your vocabulary?
Will you help educate others who use the words?
Will you learn more about PEOPLE FIRST LANGUAGE?
Talk to me in the comments. Let me know what you are thinking.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward.
All the best,
I am going to update some of the better articles I’ve written for my classes, parent newsletters and magazines. Hope you enjoy them.
Since Aaron was young, the language has evolved. When this story took place they used the words, “mental retardation,” then the words become “developmental disabilities” now it would be “intellectual disabilities.” I’m using the original words as I experienced them.
“Help the mentally retarded! Help the mentally retarded!”
I had just bought some 99 cent grapes, a pound of hamburger, loaf of bread and a couple other items to make dinner for my family when I was met at the door to the grocery by three older men wearing brightly-colored vests and hats with tassels. They were holding little cans and urging shoppers to “Help the mentally retarded!”
I grabbed my groceries and, not even looking up, hurried to my car. As I passed, one man said (in a very superior) voice, “Not all babies are born healthy.”
I felt my face flush and when I paused, he went in for his killer argument, “We aren’t ALL blessed with normal babies, you know!”
Well, that did it. Turning, I said, “I have a child who has the label of autism and I think it is very condescending to have to beg to raise money for quality services.”
Well, the men and their swinging tassels all stopped and circled me. They were aghast. “What do you mean?”
I thought about just grabbing my bags out of the cart and running to my car, but instead looked him right in the eye. “People who are retarded need real opportunities. They can be valuable workers and contribute to society. Retarded people as objects of the mercy of others reinforces the negative stereotypes of the past. In fact, now we call them people with intellectual challenges and don’t even use the word retarded.”
“But honey, last year we raised over $300,000 in our state.” The man straightened his hat and looked like I had sucker-punched him in the gut. “One-third of that money is going toward adding a retarded adult wing onto Children’s Hospital. Also we began a new women’s group home. We stand here in the rain and cold to help. We are volunteers. We don’t get anything out of this.”
At the entrance of the store a crowd was now gathering. I knew he was probably a nice man only trying to do his Christian duty. He was sincere and dedicated, only ignorant of the principles of normalization and inclusion. The staring and frowning faces of the crowd told me they were on his side. I half expected flying can goods to start stoning me. After all, who takes on God’s Knights right in front of Krogers?
I certainly didn’t plan on making a scene. So, giving the man a smile, I just said, “Well, I serve people who have developmental disabilities in other ways” and tried to push my grocery cart around him.
He gently put his hand on my shoulder and assured me God would take care of me and my son. Then, to show no hard feelings, he put three Won’t you give an extra inch? wooden rulers into my bag.
Well, once again I had done it. My husband is always telling me to lighten up and get a new hobby. For Pete’s sake, here I was in a confrontation in front of the grocery store.
Perhaps next time I’ll just drop a quarter in the cup and make the man happy… but… in the meantime, I’ll work “inch by inch” to replace the poor helpless eternal child stereotype with an image of a citizen with real value, dignity and rights.
Share Your Thoughts
How would you handle this? Have you had similar experiences?
The kicker is that Children’s hospital no longer even wants to serve adults with disabilities. Do you think that is a good or bad thing? Also, in 2012, the Knights would be saying, “Help the children with intellectual disabilities,” right?
To those of us who care about people with disabilities, it is always shocking to hear about media personalities attacking the vulnerable people we love.
“R” Word Slips of the Tongue
NBA star LeBron James apologized for saying “that’s retarded” during a post-game press conference.
That was bad. But he apologized, and hopefully learned to never use the “r” word again.
Some would argue this was an example of the Politically Correct Police censuring free speech. This would be true if there wasn’t a long and recorded history of discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. Check out the Parallels in Time website if you have any doubts.
With Rosa’s Law and large organizations like Special Olympics actively challenging the media personalities who use the “R” word publicly, there is a gradual shift in the public’s awareness. This is a giant step to improving the image of people with disabilities.
In another post, The ‘R’ word| A challenge to Bloggers I asked bloggers to not use words that insult people with intellectual disabilities and gave a sample letter which made a difference in one blog.
We all make mistakes, we all can learn to be more sensitive. Sometimes our letters need to educate good people who just haven’t walked in our shoes.
Purposely Insulting People with Intellectual Disabilities
BUT…when public figures purposely insult and promote segregation and prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities and think it is funny or entertaining–that is another story.
Dennis McNulty, Director, Catholic Charities Disability Services in Cleveland, Ohio alerted the Arc of Ohio with this shocking story about a local radio station:
The Rover’s Morning Glory radio show was talking about how people with disabilities, using the “r” word to refer to this group of people, cannot and should not hold jobs, are incapable of learning in school (specifically people with Down syndrome) and the disc jockey cringes whenever he hears or sees them out in public. He goes as far as saying when he sees them working in the grocery store, he is disgusted.
Even worse, the radio station chose to re-broadcast this particlular show.
Please use the link below and either call or email the radio station to express your displeasure with their choice of programming.
Mr. McNulty also advises:
The only way to do anything is by associating the advertisers and the radio station DIRECTLY with the insulting behavior.
That means calling the advertisers (and getting to the top person) and making it clear your organization and its supporters, AND its nationwide reach, will tell the public that Such-and-Such company supports the insulting, belittling, and marginalization of people who have disabilities. And that WMMS stands for the insulting, etc.
Nothing else will stick. Generally the advertisers could give two hoots about this, because they are reaching a large target audience through the Rover program. WMMS could give two hoots because it is precisely that kind of humor which draws the audience in the first place. So everybody profits at the horrible expense of those who are being ridiculed.
Again, the ONLY way to have an effect is to directly link the radio station and advertisers as being SUPPORTERS of ridicule, prejudice, insult, and marginalization.
Ask the advertiser, “do you support the ridicule, prejudice, insult, and marginalization of people who have mental disabilities? You don’t? Well, we think you do, and we will tell the public. Why? Because you advertise on that radio station, which has now become an outlet for the ridicule of people who have disabilities. And we will directly link YOUR company to that degrading conduct. The only way out of it is to PUBLICLY pull your advertising from WMMS and stand with us. Period.
Take action as you feel appropriate…. Please share with others.
Dennis C. McNulty, D. Min.
Director, Catholic Charities Disability Services
Now it is easy to say, “let the big organizations, or the advocates, or the parents or … take the action.”
But there is a power in one person–YOU–calling or writing an email to the station. Here is the link to the station information:
ACTION ALERT: A challenge to those who care about people with disabilities
Below is my letter to the radio station in Ohio, I’ll let you know if I get a response.
If you are as concerned as I am, I encourage you to also send your email to the radio station. Click here for the link to the radio station.
Here is my email to WMMS:
May, 11, 2011
I was shocked to learn WMMS was insulting people with disabilities and their families on the air.
Many people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities can live, work and go to school in their communities and for your Rover’s Morning Glory radio show to say otherwise is discriminatory.
There are only two kinds of people in the world: the disabled and the “yet-to-be-disabled.” Each one of you and your family members are only one accident, one illness away from having a permanent disability.
Think about it, the insults you hurl not only reflect on you, but on the whole Cleveland community.
If you live long enough—you WILL have a disability. How many of your listeners have family and friends with intellectual and other disabilities?
How many of your sponsors have children or family members with disabilities?
When you target one group of people to degrade, ostracize and alienate as being different from you, you only make yourself look petty and ridiculous. You might think that by putting down people with intellectual disabilities, you are making yourself look better—but in fact, you are degrading yourselves.
I ask you to stop this segregation tactic. People with disabilities have the legal right, and the human right to be part of the community. We will not force them into the backwards of institutions and out of the public eye.
Instead we will celebrate their gifts to our common community. We will embrace them in our human family.
WMMS would not dare insult other minority groups. Why would you pick on these vulnerable people?
You are embarrassing yourselves.
Mary E. Ulrich Ed.D. and mother of Aaron, a person with an intellectual disability
A media person says the “R” word and then apologizes.
A media person says the “R” word to increase prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities.
I’m hoping you will want to be a part of the solution and take an action step.
Email, Call, Tweet and use your social media resources to spread the word that people with disabilities are just like everyone else and these attacks will not be tolerated.
It will only take a minute. Will you write an email to the radio station?
What do you think about this?
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. issued a “posthumous pardon” to Arridy, one of the five wrongly executed people with intellectual disabilities.
Pastor to People with Disabilities and their Families
Bob Perske is one of the most gentle and positive people I know. He lives God’s message to care for the “least of my brethern.”
It might surprise people to know Bob hangs out with criminals on death row.
In a previous post I shared his “history of people with disabilities and hope for families.”
Because Bob understands the history of people with disabilties, he knows FEAR was one of the main reasons for removing people from their families and locking them up in institutions, away from society. Fear is still one of the main reason people are excluded from quality lives in the community.
The world in which we live is not always safe, secure, and predictable. It does not always say “please” or “excuse me.” Everyday there is a possibility of being thrown up against a situation where we may have to risk everything, even our lives. This is the real world. We must work to develop every human resource within us in order to prepare for these days (Robert Perske: “The Dignity of Risk.” 1972).
Bob is still hopeful for families, but he wanted to share his recent testimony about people with intellectual disabilities who have been convicted of serious crimes they didn’t commit. Crimes they confessed to because they wanted to make the police officers happy or get them to stop the interrogations. Crimes they didn’t even understand.
Everyone wants people who kill, steal and rape people behind bars. Everyone wants dangerous people off the streets. Everyone wants JUSTICE for the victims. And, Everyone wants the right person convicted.
But Bob Perske and others ask:
“What if the person who confesses to the crime is a person with an intellectual disability?”
Certainly, just because a person has the label of intellectual disability doesn’t make them innocent–but it also shouldn’t make them vulnerable to giving false testimony in our criminal justice system.
Although I did a lot of writing about kids and families earlier, deep in my heart I think they also need to be aware of futures where they can be misunderstood by interrogators and they need to be alert and ready for these grim possibilities.
What can we do?
ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS
Robert Perske, Citizen Advocate
Persons With Intellectual Disabilities
CT: REGARDING SB NO. 954 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS (March 9, 2011)
Dear Committee Members:
For the past 34 years, I have served as a worker and author on cases involving persons with intellectual disabilities who were coerced into confessing to major felonies they did not commit.
I am a member of The ARC of Connecticut and The ARC of the United States.
I am the author of “Perske’s List: False Confessions from 75 Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.”
It will be published in September’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a journal of the American Association on Intellectual Disabilities. (AIIDD).
The article is 24 pages long. It shows that:
• 65 have been legally exonerated.
• 29 have been exonerated by DNA tests.
• 5 are now headed for court hearings thanks to “Innocent Project” groups.
• 5 have been so wrongly executed they will always be painful to justice-loving lawyers when they think about them.
• 1 of the five wrongly executed was Joe Arridy. On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. issued a “posthumous pardon” to Arridy.
• I predict that Richard Lapointe of Connecticut will someday be added to this list.
The time has come when judges and juries should be helped by advanced video technology to see everything that went on in an interrogation room. Until they can do that, our justice system will be tainted.
Check out Bob’s articles, books, websites or give him a call.
As parents we worry about our children being victims. Few of us imagine our children as the aggressor.
What can be done to give them better protection, a more fair and equal justice? Because sometimes even the people who have confessed to being the aggressors–are Victims.
Electronic equipment seems like an easy answer to me. I would think it would help protect the rights of everyone, including the police officers.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Discussion: These are life and death issues. Would video technology and electronic recordings of custodial hearings bring better justice to everyone? Is this worth the cost? What do you think of Bob’s role as a pastor and “citizen advocate”? How can we make our children less vulnerable?