Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones But Words Will Never Hurt You

Most of us have heard this saying during our childhood but, it took the student speaker at the graduation of the Cardinal Cushing Centers to really bring into the focus how far it misses the mark. Last month, Erik, began his graduation speech with the usual list of thanks and gratitude but, then he said: “People say that sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. People are wrong. Words do hurt.” Ask any one of our students or adults or their families what they think of the word “retarded” or “retard” and they will tell you.

They hurt. What I can’t understand is why we continue to use words after we have been told they hurt.

Special Olympics, Best Buddies and over 200 other organizations from around the world have joined together to Spread the Word to End the Word™ and build awareness for society to stop and think about its’ use of the R-word. That R-word is something hurtful and painful – “retard” or “retarded.” Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends. The R-word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.

Please join me in raising the consciousness of society and the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the "R" word and pledge to stop using the word. Please visit http://www.r-word.org/ to take the pledge today to spread the word to end the word.  I did.

PS-Enjoy this slide show of graduation by clicking the link below:


Monday, June 11, 2012

New York’s Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs: A Different Perspective

Congratulations are in order for New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who recently announced sweeping legislation to create the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, which would investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse and neglect against people with intellectual disabilities. The Center will have broad powers to independently investigate private and public facilities that receive funding from the state. It will be the largest agency in the country established to protect people with disabilities. This is in response to the widespread reporting of abuse, deaths and even homicides throughout the service system in New York.

While this news was positively received by advocates for people with disabilities, I viewed it from slightly different perspectives.

First of all, why did it take rampant abuse and even death for New York to come to the aid of persons with disabilities being systematically abused? No other minority group would have had to wait as long as people with disabilities in New York are waiting for legal protections. Other states have been quicker to establish these kinds of safeguards.

The press releases emphasized the size of the new structure and while, as a Bostonian, you might accuse me of criticizing everything New York, it is the quality and effectiveness which will be important to me. Not the bragging rights of the biggest.

From what I can tell, only those programs and facilities that receive state funding will come under the scrutiny of this new Center. If we are serious about eliminating abuse against people with disabilities, we must hold entire communities to the same standards. While the assumption seems to be that caretakers are the only ones that abuse people with disabilities, facts and police reports tell a different story — families and friends can abuse, too.

Investigation and prosecution are important tools but, if we want to protect people with intellectual disabilities, we must prevent abuse from occurring. This will only happen when people with disabilities are truly equal members of our communities who live, work, play and pray with us.

Originally published on the Ruderman Family Foundation website