University of Kansas Professor Urges People to Stop Using the “R” Word

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LAWRENCE, Kan. - March 7th is the third annual "Spread the Word to End the Word" observance day.  The word they're trying to stop is the "R" word, or retard.  One University of Kansas professor has been trying to stop that word since 1967.

In 1967 Jay Turnbull was born, Rud Turnbull was his proud father.  Jay was born with intellectual disabilities, but quickly his father learned other people had a different word for people like Jay - the "R" word.

"For those of us who have children with disabilities, the "R" word is a fighting word," Rud Turbull said.

Rud Turnbull spent years trying to educate people about the emotional hurt using the "R" word causes.

"I can't imagine any more of an objectionable word than retard," Turnbull said.

He says it devalues a person with disabilities.

"They are not less worthy, and indeed they are a whole lot more able than many people believe them to be," Turnbull explained.

Theresa Melhem says she still hears the word daily.

"Yeah, it's a little shocking, I don't know, I think nowadays people are more- 'oh- I can't believe you just said that,'" Melhem said.

Turnbull says there's something you can do in that situation- politely ask the person who says it to stop.

"In the future, would you consider the effect of that word on other people?" Turnbull demonstrated.

He offers the correct way to identify someone with a disability.

"If you had a disability, the most appropriate way for me to refer to you is to say 'Abby.'  The second most appropriate way would be to say, 'Abby who is a person with,'" Turnbull explained.

Because to his family, Jay was a person with a genuine smile, a person with a love for music, a person with a love for life.  He was not an "R" word.

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