By DANIEL NOLTEMEYER
Your Voice Contributor
I heard the â€œR-wordâ€ ten years ago when I was in the hallways of my high school.
I still hear it on the bus, at sports events, at the store and when I go to the movies.
Today the â€œR-wordâ€ â€“ you know the one: retarded â€“ has become a common word used by people as an insult to describe someone or something stupid or dumb. When I hear it, it hurts and upsets me because I have an intellectual and developmental disability. I know that when I hear it, it might not be towards me personally, but it is still hurtful. It makes me feel bad.
I want people to understand how wrong it is. People should put themselves in my place. How would they like to hear an ugly word everywhere they went? People with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve to be respected and valued.
We have gifts and the world should recognize them. We have goals and dreams like everyone else. One of those goals is to be accepted and included. We have accomplished so much.
I donâ€™t think about my disability, but instead, I try to be the best that I can be. I have a great life. I work, have a wonderful family and friends. I enjoy hobbies, church, sports as a Special Olympics athlete in both basketball and softball, and I like volunteering in the community. I have a wonderful buddy, Steve, who is a student at the University of Louisville, and we met at Best Buddies Kentucky. We like to go to movies and sporting events, listen to country music, and hang out as friends.
My buddy Steve says, â€œI honestly consider him one of my closest friends, and I know that Daniel is about as loyal a friend as someone could be. Iâ€™m so grateful to have Daniel as my Best Buddy, and hope he can learn as much from me as I do from him.â€
Overall, I have a positive attitude and try to be a strong self-advocate to help make the world a better place. I challenge you to join me in the campaign to stop the use of the â€œR-wordâ€ and please get more involved with Best Buddies Kentucky today.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Ask your friends and family to take the pledge at www.r-word.org to never, ever say the hurtful â€œR-wordâ€ again.
- Get involved with us on the Best Buddies Kentucky Facebook or Twitter pages.
- Join us for High Heels and Hats, April 18 at Westport Village from 6-9 p.m. I will be in the Derby fashion show and you can help other people with intellectual and developmental disabilities too.
Daniel Noltemeyer is a Best Buddies Kentucky Buddy Ambassador.