It was just another word she or her family may have used or heard. Today, as she raises a 10-year-old son with a cognitive disability, shes teaching her four other children and herself just how much the word means.
Was I always that mother? The truth is I wasnt. The blessing of Henry was that I learned that lesson, Taylor said. Whats important is that you grow.
Taylor and others like her are supporting the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Councils The R-Word Hurts Campaign. The grassroots effort focuses on removing the R-word from both clinical and everyday language and replacing it with more accurate and less hurtful words.
Council members encourage people to stop using the word, to ask others to stop and to take an action pledge at okddc.ok.gov.
Ann Trudgeon, ODDC executive director, said the campaign started in March of this year. As they researched the slang use of the R-word, she and other advocates discovered that the word often is not directed at a person. People grew up hearing the word and using it to mean something like ridiculous, she said.
Thats a tougher nut to crack, she said. If we devalue people as retarded or a retard, we devalue their humanity.
Trudgeon said it is important to understand that even if the word is not directed at someone, it is still dehumanizing to people with a disability.
We want it to be so ugly that people wont use it. We have plenty of words that mean ridiculous. We dont need the R-word, she said. Its not political correctness. Its just respect.
Taylor said she didnt pay much attention to the use of the word until her youngest child, Henry Weathers, began showing signs of cognitive disability. He has an acquired brain injury because, for several years, an undetected congenital heart condition deprived his brain of sufficient oxygen.
Watching him grow made Taylor more aware of the words impact.
always thought of the R-word as an antiquated word that doctors used. I
never thought of it as hate speech, Taylor said. Then it became more
personal. It began to feel like when people said, Thats so retarded,
what they meant was, Thats so Henry. She said she wants people to
be aware of the need to change but rejects the notion that they should
feel guilty about what they may have said in the past.
When you know better, you do better, Taylor said. People want to change when they feel good about their choices.
Eliminating the word
Brian Smith, who has cerebral palsy, said he wasnt exposed to use of the R-word much until college.
a normal college kid, I was exposed to that. It was nonchalant, said
the 25-year-old. Its the attitude with the R-word. Youre telling them
that youre not really valuing their opinion. Why not eliminate the
word entirely so that no one gets their feelings hurt?
focus on the abilities. We all have disabilities. Thats just one piece
of their life and they shouldnt be defined by that.
Trudgeon said efforts like the R-Word Hurts campaign can help people change.
know its just going to take some time. We also know that people dont
think its mean, especially when they arent referring to a specific
person with a disability, she said. I think people are opening their
minds. People are getting it.
website rwordhurts.com hosts personal testimonials and videos. At
r-word.org, organizations and individuals can purchase signs, brochures
and stickers to help share the message with others.