THE BLOG

Reality Check: the R Word Is the Wrong Word

18/06/2015 21:16 BST | Updated 18/06/2016 10:59 BST

For Learning Disability Week I want people to understand that terms like 'retard' are offensive and not okay to use to describe anyone.

There's a word people love so much that when you ask them to stop saying it they'll defend it, and sometimes this leads to arguments. That word is "retard" and when people with a learning disability speak out about it, they got a whole lot of arguments in return.

In America they have a campaign called Spread The Word to End The Word, which raises awareness that using terms like the R-word to describe people is not okay in our society.

Fair warning; the next time someone describes something annoying and upsetting or negative as the R-word I'm going to lose my shizz!

Having a learning disability is largely viewed as having a problem, when it shouldn't be - it's just part of the diversity of humanity. Being "able" is seen as the norm, but society is more diverse than that.

Unfortunately people with a learning disability face a lot of discrimination from the population in their day-to-day lives. This can start with what may seem like small things such as name calling but can grow and grow until life becomes unbearable for people. The R-word might seem like a small thing to many, but its effect can be terrible, and shouldn't be used to describe learning disability.

A learning disability can affect someone in a wide variety of ways. The terms include mild, moderate, severe and profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Having the right support, people with a learning disability can achieve more than you think can and lead a happy life and live independently in their own home. People with more severe learning disabilities require 24 hour care to perform more daily living skills.

From working at Mencap I have lots of friends and colleagues who have a learning disability. Nearly all have had to listen to offensive language from others at some point in their life. It's ignorant to use such terms. It's just slang, you might say, it's just a joke, it's not actually. It's just the same as using racist or homophobic words. There is no difference and no excuse for it. This has got to stop!

No person with a learning disability is stupid; dumb, slow, incompetent, pathetic, or a loser. In many ways we are just like everyone else with the same hopes and dreams we all share.

There is no reason why people with a learning disability shouldn't be able to make these dreams come true like everyone else does in our society, such as paid work, a home of their own choice, and how they choose to spend their free time.

Our work at Mencap is all about removing labels and prejudices that people with a learning disability often face. However, it is important to recognise that we still have a long way to go. People with a learning disability face significant challenges and allowing the use of offensive language simply adds to them. We all have a responsibility to let the public understand the damage these words can cause, and I think Learning Disability Week is the perfect opportunity to do it.

My advice to other people with a learning disability is to concentrate and focus on the things that matter. Your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, so don't feel regret for the things it might interfere with because their might be skills out there that you didn't even know you had. Don't become disabled in spirit too.

From the 15th June - 28th June the learning disability charity Mencap is asking people to celebrate Learning Disability Week 2015 with them. Mencap want to reach out to the general public, newly elected politicians and people in a powerful position to tackle the myths and conceptions about learning disability. If you want more information or to get involved in Learning Disability Week 2015, head here.