Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What can I do when I hear the R-word?

Making your own pledge to stop using the R-word and promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities is a terrific first step.  At some point however, we will all hear someone else use the R-word and think to ourselves – What do I do now?
It’s a tough question because each situation is unique, no one likes to be seen as “the word police,” and often times it’s just easier to let it go unnoticed and go on about your day.  However, now that you’ve taken the R-word pledge, you have a larger opportunity to be an agent of change in the world and speak up when you hear others use the R-word.

Below are some ideas, tips and resources for you to answer the question: What can I do when I hear the R-word?

Dialogue Scenarios

There are a lot of scenarios in which you may hear the R-word.  Here are some typical situations that depict a potential dialogue you can have to help someone understand why it’s important to choose more respectful language.  (Note: We welcome suggestions on additional scenarios, and user generated scripts or videos to provide in this space as resources.  Email us at
Scenario 1:  When a friend or family member uses the R-word 
Scenario 2:  While collecting R-word pledges

Hearing the R-word in the Media

The R-word continues to be pervasive in mainstream media.  It is still used in television shows, movies, live television interviews and more.  The best way to create change in this space is to speak up, loudly.  When you hear the R-word used in the media, there are many things you can do to activate immediately.
  • Note down the time, channel and program information in which you heard the word.  
  • Try going online to get a clip of the usage.  Most networks have websites where you can view recent episodes and even select a specific clip to share.  You can also try or
  • Search for information about the show ( is great for this). Find out who the actors, writers, producers and distributors are and write them!  Find out who the relevant network contacts are and write to them.  Find out who the advertisers are that support the show and write to them.  
  • Use your social networks to engage those same people and share your activities with the Spread the Word to End the Word social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter so the community at-large can activate.

Hearing the R-word in Person

You may hear the R-word used directly or indirectly, maliciously or non-maliciously, by a friend or a stranger, in a professional setting or on the street.  Every situation presents unique challenges and opportunities in deciding what you want to do after you’ve heard the R-word used.
  • Many people will immediately speak up and share that the word is hurtful and ask the user to please choose more respectful language.
  • Others who aren’t as outgoing may keep some of our branded cards on hand to pass out to someone who uses the R-word.
  • Some people engage people who use the R-word in a conversation asking them why they chose to use the word and inquire as to the exact meaning of the message they were trying to get across and them simply ask them if there is a word that conveys the same meaning but is less hurtful.
  • Often times people who have loved ones with an intellectual disability will preemptively ask friends or guests to be mindful of their language in recognition that some people simply aren’t aware of the hurt their words can create.  
There are many ways to handle many different situations.  We’ve put this exact question to our fans on Facebook before and have seen lots of different approaches.  Check out what they had to say.
Whatever your method of handling the situation when you hear the R-word in person it’s important that your put safety above all else and do not confront anyone with violence, or threats of violence.  The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is about creating communities of respect and inclusion where all people are valued, even those who may disagree with our position, so it’s important to respect their opinions as you want them to respect yours.

Below are some basic tips to help guide you in having a conversation with someone who has used the R-word.

Tips for a successful conversation:
  • Stay calm and collected, it will not help the other person see your point if you are angry and emotional.
  • Try to understand the reason he/she disagrees with you. Listen, be respectful and then provide a counterargument that highlights the harmful and hurtful effects of using the R-word.
  • Share a personal story about why the R-word is hurtful to you. Personal stories will help people more easily relate to what you are saying because it illustrates your personal commitment to the campaign.
  • If you encounter a question you are unable to answer, direct the individual to the Spread the Word to End the Word website ( to learn more about the campaign, Special Olympics and Best Buddies.

No comments:

Post a Comment