Battle against ‘R’ word ongoing

Disability Awareness Month

By David J. Coehrs -

Bikers take to the road during the 2017 Bike-A-Thon.

Bikers take to the road during the 2017 Bike-A-Thon.

Photo submitted

In today’s politically correct environment it has become the “R” word, a derogatory term for the developmentally disabled.

And while Kathy Shaw doesn’t intend to campaign for utter civility in everyday language, she does want to see that hurtful word – retarded – removed.

That’s a major goal during Disability Awareness Month in March. “Let’s not put up barriers, whether it’s using an offensive word or placing unnecessary obstacles,” said Shaw, CEO and director of Triangular Processing in Wauseon.

An extension of the March recognition will be the annual Bike-A-Thon on April 22 at 2 p.m. at Triangular Processing, 550 W. Linfoot St. in Wauseon. A $30 donation gets bicyclists a commemorative T-shirt and a gift pack. All proceeds are used to provide services for the developmentally disabled in Fulton County.

Those not interested in riding can attend Triangular Processing that day to partake in the festival atmosphere and pledge not to use the word.

Corporate sponsors include Farmers and Merchants State Bank, the Fulton County Health Center, Ace Hardware, Andres O’Neil and Lowe Agency, and North Clinton Church.

“The theme is to spread with word to end the word,” Shaw said. “You may not intend to offend if you use the word ‘retarded‘ but it does have a negative impact.”

Shaw understands the rebellious atmosphere currently surrounding the political correctness movement and agrees the movement has reached a saturation point. But she’s adamant that “retarded” has never belonged in speech.

“We just want them to understand that using this word, whether intentionally or not, diminishes the value of people with developmental disabilities,” she said. We consider the saying, ‘What’s in your heart comes out of your mouth.’ We just want to use this to ask people to reflect on that.”

During this month, Triangular Processing will use social media to engage and remind people of the hurt the word inflicts.

“It all comes down to building a relationship with someone with a disability so that you can educate yourself about what’s unique, but more importantly about what’s the same,” Shaw said.

She quoted Cleveland attorney Verna Myers, a staunch supporter of those with developmental disabilities: “Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Shaw added, “We’ve gotten better with the diversity. I don’t think people are intentionally setting out to exclude people. We’re just taking it to that next step.”

The word ‘retardation’ originally was, and still can be used, as part of a person’s diagnosis, said Beth Friess, superintendent of the Fulton County Board of DD. It was eventually abbreviated to ‘retarded,’ and became a term for derogatory use.

“So while it started as a diagnosis, it’s not being used that way anymore,” she said.

Friess said the majority of people who use the word are not intending it to be detriimental to someone who may have an intellectual disability. “It’s just not undertanding that, even though you didn’t mean it that way, it can still be felt that way,” she said. “People don’t want to be called names, whatever that name is.”

Shaw said Fulton County, as a whole, “is very warm and welcoming. I have nothing but positive reactions in the county about what they could do to help. Whenever anybody stops and thinks about it, they absolutely go out of their way to accommodate individuals with developmental disabilities. The awareness campaigns are working.”

Bikers take to the road during the 2017 Bike-A-Thon. take to the road during the 2017 Bike-A-Thon. Photo submitted
Disability Awareness Month

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.