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Respect Starts Now! Campaign Launched

A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses or activities. People with disabilities are often judged for their differences. A disability may affect someone in various ways, but it does not define who they are.

In recent years, Wendell Foster, a local agency supporting people with disabilities, participated in the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which is designed to stop the use of the word “retarded.” Now, Wendell Foster has launched its own campaign called “Respect Starts Now!” This campaign is not focused on just one word or one disability but is focused on treating each and every person with respect.

Lesley Blake, a Wendell Foster employee and advocate of Cerebral Palsy, and I will be visiting area schools sharing the importance of this message. This new campaign is geared toward showing respect to everyone by:

  1. Challenging common thinking toward individuals with disabilities.
  2. Persuading the audience to eliminate all hurtful and insulting terminology.
  3. Supporting anti-bullying efforts.

During the presentations, Lesley will share her personal story. Cerebral Palsy has caused Lesley to have stiffness in her muscles and has impacted her learning abilities, but she does not let this get in her way. She has trained herself to walk five miles a day and competes in 5K events!

Another example of someone breaking barriers is my friend, Matthew, who has Down syndrome. He can swim the 50-yard freestyle in 40.32 seconds! I am thankful to know people like Lesley and Matthew who do not let their disabilities determine their abilities.

Unfortunately, the word “retard,” also known as the “r-word,” is often associated with people who have disabilities. The r-word is defined as a hindrance or an impairment. There are some disabilities that limit learning capabilities and interaction with others, however, society has taken the r-word and twisted it into a harsh insult. When the r-word is used as an insult, it is hurtful to the victim and to everyone with a disability. That is why we encourage our audience to eliminate the use of the r-word. In our presentation,

Lesley and I place great importance on speaking with kindness not only to family and friends but to everyone. Duke University’s Kendall Cooper puts it best by saying, “I don’t say ‘retarded’ because my brother’s speech impediment doesn’t indicate his intelligence.” We also discuss the seriousness of bullying. Bullying can be a physical, verbal or psychological attack against a person. The impacts of bullying can be severe and can have long-term effects. The Center for Disease Control says, “Students who experience bullying are at an increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression.” Due to technology, bullying is now more convenient than ever. Now people can be bullied in person or through social media.

Lesley and I explain the importance of this topic and provide helpful tips on how to deal with it. The news constantly reminds us of the violence, hatred and disrespect in our world. It appears that respect is no longer shown. We hope this campaign will start a positive movement by encouraging everyone to show respect. We have 22 presentations scheduled for March where we will talk to over 1,000 students. The world can’t wait any longer; respect must start now!

The “Respect Starts Now!” campaign offers a bulletin board, essay and poster contest for students. For more information or to schedule a presentation, contact John at 270-852-1486 or [email protected].