A String of Successes but Far to Go
For Special Olympics, the R-word campaign kicked off in 2004 at the request of athletes with intellectual disabilities who were uncomfortable being called mentally retarded.
In response to Special Olympics athletes’ call for change, the Special Olympics International Board of Directors adopts a resolution to update the movement’s terminology from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disabilities.”
Special Olympics launches the website www.r-word.org to combat the inappropriate use of the R-word in common usage.
August 14, 2008
Special Olympics, along with a coalition of national disability organizations, mobilizes a grass-roots campaign against "Tropic Thunder," a DreamWorks production. Special Olympics athletes joined protestors at demonstrations in Los Angeles, California, Washington D.C., New York City, Delaware, Massachusetts, Missouri and Texas. "Tropic Thunder," marketed as a satire about Hollywood actors and the movie industry in general, contains scenes promoting the idea that a "retard" is funny.
Spread the Word to End the Word is created by youth with and without intellectual disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
March 31, 2009
First annual day of awareness for “Spread the Word to End the Word.”
Rosa’s Law is introduced into the U.S. Senate and championed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) to eliminate the term “mental retardation” from most federal laws.
Best Buddies International partners with Special Olympics in supporting the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, expanding the campaign's message of respect and inclusion for all people to their network of 1,500 middle school, high school and college chapters around the world.
March 3, 2010
Second annual day of awareness for “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Over 500 events were held on March 3rd and more than 20,000 pledges were collected on this day alone.
March 4, 2010
The Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign reaches 100,000 pledges.
March 10, 2010
Spread the Word to End the Word hits primetime – a Spread the Word t-shirt on Turk (played by Donald Faison) on the hit show “Scrubs.”
April 8, 2010
Special Olympics Project Unify joins forces with TEEN TRUTH to deliver the important Spread the Word to End the Word message to youth around the nation with reach to over 200 schools and approximately 200,000 students.
May 26, 2010
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education and Pensions (HELP) approved Rosa’s Law to remove the words “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal laws.
August 5, 2010
Rosa’s Law is unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate.
September 23, 2010
Rosa’s Law is unanimously approved in the House of Representatives.
October 5, 2010
Rosa’s Law is signed into federal law by U.S. President Barack Obama. The law removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.”
March 2, 2011
The third annual day of awareness is held. During a week full of activities over 50,000 pledges were collected, over $65 million in television ad value was donated, over 10 million social web impressions were generated and hundreds of high schools and colleges held events.
March 31, 2011
On the second anniversary of the inaugural day of awareness for Spread the Word to End the Word, the campaign crosses the 200,000 pledge plateau.
May 24, 2011
During the season finale of Fox's hit show "Glee" our hard hitting new public service announcement "Not Acceptable" aired on national television. The ad highlighted people from multiple demographics stating that it is not okay to call them by a derogatory slang word and then concluded with Lauren Potter, an actress with Down Syndrome who plays the popular Becky Jackson on "Glee", and Jane Lynch from "Glee" stating that the R-word is just as hurtful as any other slur. On You Tube, the ad went viral, hitting 100,000 views in just 18 hours and 1,000,000 views in its' first month online.
March 7, 2012
The fourth annual day of awareness will be held.