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As an individual with a disability, I am writing to inform our community about the importance of an upcoming date, Wedneday, March 7. March 7 is Spread the Word to End the Word day, a nationally recognized day dedicated to stopping the use of the r-word, or retard.

If you’ve ever been called a retard, you surely have not forgotten how you felt. If you’ve been in a situation where you heard the word, you can probably recall who said it. That is how powerful this word can be.

You see that’s the thing — our words hold power. The power to hurt, to isolate and to demean. There are many words within our society that are used with those intentions. The one that stings the most for me is retard.

The words we use can shape the attitudes and judgments of others. The real power in our words comes when we use them to encourage, to inspire and, above all else, consider people first. That’s when a change can occur.

I challenge all community members to use people-first language, to make a change and take a stand against the r-word. It really is about respecting all individuals. You have the power to change someone’s attitudes and judgments simply by your language. Take the pledge at Pledge to stop the use of the r-word and use respectful, people-first language!

Tyler Schwab, Bismarck