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March 5 Is the Day to Drop the ‘R-Word’

Friday, February 28, 2014 - 1:05pm

Drop the R-Word on March 5

UTSD students are supporting a national effort to end use of hurtful language.

Students at The University of Texas School of Dentistry are supporting a growing national effort to stop use of the “R-word.”  Wednesday, March 5 is national “Spread the Word to End the Word Day,” and the students will set up a table outside the Fullerton Classroom (4310) to share information about ways you can help.

“We’d love for you to stop by our table and take the pledge to end the use of this hurtful word,” said Jenni Griffith, president of the DDS Class of 2016. “The table will be set up all day, and there will be people there during lunch time to answer any questions you may have.”

The effort gained local momentum when MHMRA, the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, recently announced that it will change its name this year to exclude what has become a derogatory term. The agency has hired a brand consulting firm but also seeks the public’s help.

Lex Frieden, a Houston disability rights activist and expert who helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act — which was signed in 1990 — said he thinks such pejorative language should have changed two decades ago.

“I think it is constructive that state agencies and other organizations are really catching up with where our culture should be with taking some of this language out of common parlance,” said Frieden, a professor at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and director of the Independent Living Research Utilization Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

“I hope it empowers people with all disabilities and helps them to understand that we can be forward-looking and the culture can adapt to our disabilities and that people expect us to engage in independent living and to be part of the community.”