Community Living Owen Sound and District and local high school partner to bury the r-word
Friday August 11, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
A sustainability celebration at Saugeen District Secondary School earlier this spring included not only planting new life but also burying what should be long gone by now.
During the celebration, a small piece of paper with one word scrawled across it was dropped in a patch of earth holding the roots of a new tree.
The word? Retard, or the r-word as those advocating for its elimination prefer.
The school also celebrated the installation of its new solar panels and planted several trees.
The Community Living Owen Sound and District volunteer communications committee organized the symbolic ceremony, approaching the school to ask about a partnership to do so.
Teacher Nancie Darlington-Smith, who oversees the school’s heritage garden, agreed it was a good idea to add the messaging around language.
Family-members, self-advocates and community members were invited to the burial. Students from the high school also took part or listened in.
A Community Living Owen Sound and District board member Tony Porter and self-advocate Terri both made brief speeches on the importance of eliminating the r-word’s use.
A member of the Bruce Shoreline Self-Advocates group, Terri said she was bringing a message from her group, as well as speaking for herself.
“Our self-advocate group wants to share with our community that it’s not alright to treat people with disabilities differently than others,” she said.
Terri went on to note the ceremony wasn’t just about ending the use of the r-word, but also to emphasize the importance of living another quality.
“We are here to admire the tree which has been planted and marked with this plaque to represent burying the r-word and replacing it with respect,” she said.
Porter says he feels very strongly about the increasing casual use of the r-word, and that’s what he tried to convey in his message to the students.
“I really don’t think that anybody does it deliberately; it’s just a casual use of the word that has crept back in, but it’s really hurtful to those that have a developmental disability or the self advocates that are aware of what it means.”
The Community Living Owen Sound and District board has made a decision to be more involved and direct activities and programs with a similar focus this year.
Workshops have also been organized, with future activities planned, all related to ending the r-word’s use.
“It’s been quite at the forefront as far as the board’s activities are concerned,” says Porter.
The Community Living Owen Sound and District volunteer communications committee is comprised of staff from various divisions and assisted living homes, as well as self-advocates.
Click here to watch a YouTube video of the ceremony.
Feel free to comment by e-mailing michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.