Spread The Word Inclusion

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Spread The Word Inclusion

Maddie and Sofie at the 2018 Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Maddie and Sofie at the 2018 Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Courtesy of Sara Pritt

Maddie and Sofie at the 2018 Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Courtesy of Sara Pritt

Courtesy of Sara Pritt

Maddie and Sofie at the 2018 Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Sofie Dalton, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Inclusion is more than a word; it is a mindset, an action and a way of life. It is something that everyone deserves but, unfortunately, not all receive. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are often discluded and discriminated against. Approximately 81% of adults with IDD are unemployed, and people with IDD often face exclusion in social settings and their communities as well. Spread the Word Inclusion is on a mission to change this. Spread the Word is a global campaign dedicated to increasing inclusion among people with disabilities through grassroots action.

Spread the Word was founded in 2009 as Spread the Word to End the Word, with a focus on eliminating “retard(ed)”, or the R-word, from everyday speech. This year, Spread the Word to End the Word became Spread the Word Inclusion: expanding from just focussing on the eradication of one word to inclusion for all people with IDD. This campaign is continuing to partner with Best Buddies and Special Olympics to collect pledges and reach schools across the world.

Spread the Word is of the utmost importance because there is still progress that needs to be made in order to achieve a fully inclusive world for people with disabilities. It is especially vital in our school community, because hurtful and derogatory words such as the R-word are unfortunately still in people’s vocabulary. I personally have heard individuals use “autistic” and “SPED” (the abbreviation for Special Education) as a way to describe things as stupid, weird or dumb. I have also heard people use the R-word in this same context.

It is unfortunate that people use these words so callously without thinking about the entire community of people that they are hurting and marginalizing. This disrespectful and offensive language does not just hurt people with IDD, it also affects their friends, family, teachers and anyone else who believes that all people deserve respect. It has had a profound impact on me. I have been involved in Best Buddies- an organization that promotes friendship between individuals with and without disabilities- since my freshman year of high school. Through Best Buddies, I have met some of the most important people in my life. The buddies (students with IDD) at my school have bettered my life in so many ways and brought me so much joy. They are always there for me no matter what. I know that every day Jeff is going to give me a big hug during lunch. I know that Maddie will always make me laugh. Noel will make me smile. Selina will text me every morning. Connor will give me a high-five. Zach will always remember my birthday.

Whenever I hear people use discriminatory language that offends the IDD community, I immediately think of all of my friends who have disabilities. I remember how much happiness they bring into my life and how much I love each and every one of them. I never want them to hear the R-word in the hallways of our school. I never want them to hear someone use “autistic” or “SPED” as a way to describe something as stupid. I want to know that wherever they, or anyone else with an IDD, goes, they will be treated with respect.

This is why Spread the Word is so important. We as a school, community, nation and world need to become more respectful and inclusive. We cannot allow hateful language to be apart of our vocabularies. We need to have the courage to speak up when we hear someone use words that offend people with IDD. We need to spread inclusion.

One way that you can spread inclusion is by using people-first language. This is putting that person before their disability, because we are all people first. People-first language is saying “he has autism” rather than “he is autistic” or “she has a disability” rather than “she is disabled.” This is a huge way to promote respect by giving each and every person value through your language.

You can also speak up when your hear the R-word or any other type of disrespectful language being used. Respectfully explain to the person that the way they are speaking is offensive to people with disabilities, and ask them if they could please find a different word to use. Some people do not know realize the offensive nature of their language until others point it out. The only way that change will happen is if we are the catalyst for the change we want to see.

Additionally, realize the difference between passive and active inclusion. Passive inclusion is simply inviting someone to sit with you at lunch. Active inclusion is talking to them and engaging them in the conversation at the table. Strive to promote active inclusion to make all people feel welcome throughout your school and community.

March 6 is Spread the Word Inclusion Day. On that day, people all over the world will be sharing their commitment to creating a more inclusive world. You can show your support by signing the banner outside of the cafeteria during all three lunches. You can also make your pledge for inclusion at https://www.spreadtheword.global/pledge. Most importantly, you can show respect through your everyday words and actions. Spread the Word is dedicated to creating change, and the change starts with you.

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