Please Stop Using The R-Word!

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On our way home today, from my dental appointment we stopped at the gas station to fill up. A group of high school students walked by and in all their laughter and loud banter, I heard one of them exclaim to the other, “you’re so retarded” and then laughed. To them, it was a nothing word; like it wouldn’t have been any different if they had used ridiculous in place of retarded….but yet they didn’t; they chose the r-word and that breaks my heart. It tells me that we still have a ways to go as a society. It tells me we are failing to properly educate our children about language which is not only offensive, but laced with ignorance and discrimination.

So this brings me to my post.

Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words.

For those of you who don’t know, this is my daughter Olivia and she has special needs. Once upon a time ago, the word retarded would have been used as a label to describe hers, and others intellectual capabilities. It was a word that definitively described people like her, as being less. She most certainly is NOT less. People like her are NOT less. When you continue to use this word in conversation, you are indirectly promoting discrimination against her and the entire special needs community. So look at her face. Remember her face. Every time you are about to use the r-word in casual conversation, I hope her face floods your mind and reminds you that saying that word, hurts her. It hurts the work that the special needs community has strived towards creating acceptance and inclusion within our society. So please, choose your words wisely. End the use of the r-word.

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It takes a village

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These last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I decided to take a big step towards starting a not-for-profit organization. The words of encouragement and support have been amazing and have kept me boosted, when endless documents and administrative duties have gotten to me.

But the best words came last night…and they weren’t pertaining to my new endeavour; although the message behind them were the inspiration that lead me on this journey: inclusion and acceptance; they were about teaching.

Teaching occurs numerous times throughout our every day life, although we probably don’t stop to think how often we are actually learning from our experiences, varying perspectives, or time spent in classrooms.

Teaching is a beautiful ability, with substantial power to influence perspective.

When Olivia was born, my life mission became that of changing perspectives through educating others about Cerebral Palsy. I wanted the world to know that disability did not mean less. I wanted to change how the world seen my child and other children like her. I wanted my child to grow in a world that accepted her, in spite of her differences. I wanted a world that embraced change.

The message I received last night filled my heart with such love and gratitude and showed me that Olivia has a village behind her, doing just the same.

Olivia’s teacher, Mrs. Christie, is a beautiful soul who is making our world a little more compassionate and understanding. Mrs. C has been teaching her students how to communicate with Olivia, who uses eye gaze technology, by teaching the entire class how it works. She conducted an entire science lesson with eye gaze, where students could only answer questions using the eye gaze board! How freaking amazing is that!?

Teaching opportunities such as this, have the immense capability of changing perspectives and showing how different does not mean less, rather differences can be fun, amazing and incredibly interesting! These are the kinds of teachable moments that will impact our future generation, smashing down invisible barriers that generate ignorance, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination.

From a Momma who has been fighting this fight for a long time, thank you to Mrs. Christie and the many other amazing teaching staff at Olivia’s school, who work incredibly hard to instill these messages in our future generation.

Day of Acceptance

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How many of you have ever heard of the Day of Acceptance? To be honest, I only discovered it last year, but it’s certainly a day that needs more recognition and one I will forever celebrate. Watching the changing world we live, I can’t help but wonder what it will offer my child when she is grown. Will we still be advocating for equality, inclusion and acceptance within the disabled community? Today we are and everyday past, we have. I can only hope that with the abundance of awareness days, such as this, we as a society will be able to expand our sight and discover the beauty in diversity and embrace the many vast abilities we all comprise.

Day Of Acceptance is a day dedicated to social acceptance of disability and also to honor the late Annie Hopkins, founder of 3E Love and the creator of the International Symbol of Acceptance. You can learn more at threeellc.com

Did you know that in Canada, more than 5.3 million Canadians live with some form of disability and of that 5.3 million; 200,000 of them are children? I would safely gage that many of you have had classmates, coworkers, friends and/or family members with a disability, but have you ever carefully considered the social barriers or astronomical financial expenses they have had to endure? If so, have you ever advocated on their behalf? If not, why? Because I’ll tell you, disability is something that has the power to touch us all! We are not immune to powers that be, that in any insant could profoundly impact the life we know today. This is why accessibility, inclusion and acceptance are EVERYONE’S responsibility!

“Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things needed to lead one’s daily life”~Judith Heurmann