KC residents call out councilman who used derogatory word for people with disabilities in meetings

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — A Kansas City councilman is under fire after using a derogatory term often used to describe people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about words that are harmful to people based on race, sex, religion and gender, but people in the disabilities community say it’s time to include them in the conversation, too.

It’s an issue highlighted by Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington’s use of the word “retarded” during city council meetings more than once in the past couple of months.

“You almost get a visceral response, really,” said Sarah Mudd, CEO and president of the Center for Developmentally Disabled. “I mean, you cringe.”

Mudd’s organization serves over 170 people with disabilities who she said are often left behind, dehumanized and diminished.

“They are people. They have feelings, and this term hurts them as much as the “N” word would hurt somebody of color,” Mudd said.

The “R” word is slang for mental retardation, once a medical term for people with disabilities, which quickly became a derogatory term, meaning stupid or foolish.

“My son and his peers in the disability community are every bit as equal to everyone else in the community, and they deserve that consideration,” Sydney Sorkin said.

Sorkin’s son Noah Radford is a senior at Blue Valley North High School. Diagnosed with autism at age two, Noah has worked hard to develop from a child that couldn’t talk or do much into a smart, successful, popular teen.

“He is about spreading love and kindness and generosity to everyone that he meets. There’s not a mean bone in his body,” Sorkin said.

Noah combatted bullying by making a P.S.A. about it and started a kindness initiative to spread the message that supporting people with disabilities can enrich everyone.

FOX4 talked to Ellington about his use of the “R” word.

“In the past, I have worked with the special needs community, so I do understand the issues in the special needs community,” Ellington said. “So in relation to the word I used, if anybody felt offended, I offer my apology.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas sent this statement about Ellington’s response:

“I appreciated his efforts to recognize that we all have work to do to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment when discussing city policies.”

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