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The Special Olympics on Tuesday launched its “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to rid the world of the word “retard,” which the organization says is an outdated reference to people with mental and intellectual disabilities and is “just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.” The campaign kicked off with more than 700 events and activities happening throughout the United States – and around the world. Across the country, people signed pledges and vowed not to use the word, while and students across college campuses denounced its use. Special Olympics’ goal is to banish the word “retard” as a term of derision while changing attitudes about the 190 million people worldwide who have mental disabilities. The word is derived from “mental retardation,” which was a common term used by doctors and scientists in the 1900s. Actor and activist John C. McGinley, of the hit show “Scrubs,” helped with this ... keep reading »
According to the New York Times, more companies are advertising to the disabled market as the weakened economy has brought about a “shift in attitudes [that] represents an opportunity to connect with the public on less mercenary — and more altruistic — levels.” For example, On Sunday, American Airlines and the American Association of People With Disabilities announced plans to honor the best television commercials featuring what are deemed positive portrayals of the disabled. The winning spot will get free air time during the airline’s in-flight entertainment programming. The Special Olympics is also being assisted in its pro bono campaign by BBDO Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom Group, and Perfect Sense Digital in Reston, Va. Their work includes posters and a Web site where computer users can pledge their support to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-word. Perhaps instead of marketing to people with disabilities for altruistic reasons, companies ... keep reading »
Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver released a statement regarding President Obama’s comment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where Obama said his recently low bowling score was akin to “Special Olympics or something.” The president then called Shriver to apologize. According to the statement, President Obama apologized to Shriver in a “sincere and heartfelt way,” saying “he did not intend to humiliate Special Olympics athletes or people with intellectual disabilities.” Still, Shriver remarked that “words hurt” and that “using ‘Special Olympics’ in a negative or derogatory context can be a humiliating put-down to people with special needs.” Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Kennedy of the Kennedy Family, founded the organization 40 years ago, went on to call the experience a “teachable moment for our country” and encouraged “open conversation and dialogue about how stereotypes can cause pain.” Shriver also highlighted the Special Olympics’ upcoming ‘Spread the Word to End the ... keep reading »
President Obama’s gaffe on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night warrants media attention, but not outright fury. The term Special Olympics is most often used (and agreed, unfortunately) among able-bodied people when they are discussing — or more specifically, dissing — their own athletic performance. In its most optimistic form, the term Special Olympics represents a group of athletes who all share in winning medals, notwithstanding perhaps lower scores or slower speeds. In its most negative form, the term Special Olympics is antithetical to athletic. That is not what President Obama meant. And that’s what prompted him to immediately call Tim Shriver, head of Special Olympics, and apologize, as well as invite Special Olympics athletes to the White House for a bowling game. In my opinion, the term Special Olympics is analogous to saying “this nightclub is ghetto” or “that dude is so white bread.” It’s a language ... keep reading »

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