Monday, September 21, 2015

Jill's Story: Getting Rid of the R-Word

Most of my readers know that I often criticize people in academia for trying to regulate the use of certain words in the name of political correctness. Of course, we are all familiar with the N-word, which we should, indeed, eliminate from our vocabulary. There is another word that has attracted less attention, but which I think we should also eliminate when referring to certain people in our society. That is the R-word, which refers to ":retarded" when describing people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD). When used, it is a word too often used to ridicule.

When we were living in Fairfax, County, Northern Virginia  in the 1990s, our neighbors were the Eglés, who were natives of Louisiana. We became very close friends with them during our time there. Their daughter, Jill, who is now 39, was born with the above described disability. Jill endured indescribable taunting and cruelty when she was a child from her schoolmates, who called her a "retard" and played mean tricks on her.

We left Virginia in 1998 to move to California. The Eglés moved back to Louisiana a few years later. It was not until last week that we were able to visit the Eglé family at their home in New Orleans. Jill still lives with her family, and we were amazed at what she has been able to accomplish in the last several years. Far from falling victim to her disability, Jill has taken the bull by the horns and become a nationwide advocate for others with her disability. She has spoken publicly all over the country, visited Congress and the White House, and pressed for increased support for the disabled. She has garnered political support to remove the R-word from government language and documents in Virgina, Maryland and at the federal level. More than that, Jill has served as an inspiration for others with her disability. In short, she is an amazing young lady.

You can visit Jill's website below to learn more about her and her disability. There is also a short book written by a friend of hers called, "Jill's Journey", which describes her life and her activism. You can learn about this book and how to order it at the below link.

I don't consider this a matter of political correctness, "macro-aggression" or "micro-aggression". It is a matter of eliminating a word that has truly been used to injure. Jill is an inspiration to me. Read her story, and she will be to you too.

1 comment:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

By origin, the term mentally retarded was an objective discriptive. It was the shorthand epithet "retard" that was an epithet. Of course cognitive disability is perfectly serviceable.