Last week we kicked off National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which honors and celebrates the gifts that people with intellectual disabilities bring to the world.
On Tuesday, that included inviting people to join in the Special Olympics “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.
Here’s just one excerpt from the campaign ambassadors:
“What’s wrong with the r-word”? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the “in” group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger
Unfortunately, people with intellectual disabilities are often seen as “less than” people without disabilities, instead of celebrated as created in the image of God, desired and needed to make a difference in the world.
The r-word is just one name that society uses to dehumanize people with intellectual disabilities.
When we shed labels like the r-word, we get to see people with disabilities how God sees them:
Pastor Brian Krause, a Lutheran pastor with a disability writes,
“All of these names cause pain, but they do even more than that; these names create barriers between people. When we view people with disabilities in this way then we are closing off the possibility of community with them and we lose the wonderful gifts they bring to the table. In God’s eyes, every single person has dignity, worth and a purpose.”