Spread the Word campaign strives to include all


Ali Norris

Peer to Peer students hung posters like this one throughout the building to help celebrate Inclusion Week at RHS.

The Spread the Word campaign is a campaign that strives to make people with intellectual and developmental disabilities included.
“Around the world, exclusion and discrimination continue to divide people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities,” spreadtheword.global said. “We are changing that with grassroots action for inclusion.”
The campaign was started in 2009 by youth leaders Soeren Palumbo and Tim Shriver as Spread the Word to End the Word, the campaign’s original goal was to end the use of the word “retarded” because of the negative effect it can have on people with disabilities and their loved ones.
“Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities,” nmhealth.org said. “However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the R-word.”
Palumbo feels strongly about the cause because of his personal connection – his sister.
“Globally, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to be excluded and isolated,” Palumbo wrote on spreadtheword.org. “Having grown up with a sibling with an intellectual disability—my sister, Olivia—I know this first-hand.”
In 2019 the campaign changed the name to Spread the Word to move the focus not only on just eliminating one word but to call for inclusion.
“The global engagement campaign remains committed to empowering grassroots leaders to change their communities, schools, and workplaces, now through a call to their peers to take action for inclusion,” spreadtheword.gov said. “With this change, Spread the Word will give community leaders around the world the tools needed to create socially inclusive places to learn, work, and live.”
Spread the word is an effort aided by the Special Olympics, Best Buddies and many other advocacy organizations.
“We set for ourselves an urgent goal to disrupt this cycle of isolation and exclusion with grassroots action for inclusion around the world,” Palumbo wrote on spreadtheword.org. “And to reach it, we created an ambitious plan to tackle one part of this exclusion, the word “retard(ed)” by finding and empowering local champions to call for change.”
One way the campaign raises awareness is through physical and digital pledges in which people sign their name as a promise to make their community more inclusive.
“Each was a personal commitment to acknowledge the hurt caused by the R-word and to be respectful in the words and actions taken towards people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” spread the word.global said.
Along with pledges, Spread the Word chooses an annual theme to celebrate and challenge people to think about inclusion in new ways, with this year’s theme being Champions of Change.
“This year, we will recognize young people and grassroots leaders around the world who have persevered to create positive change and build a more inclusive future for all,” spreadtheword.global said. “Throughout the year, we will share stories of individuals from our global Special Olympics and Best Buddies communities who have taken action for inclusion and encourage everyone to celebrate champions of change in their schools, workplaces, and communities.”
Over ten years the campaign has reached thousands of schools but still believes there is much more work to do.
“In 2009, this campaign was founded on the audacious belief that grassroots action could end the discrimination and exclusion faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and replace it with inclusion,”spreadtheword.global said. “This remains our guiding principle. The first 10 years of Spread the Word to End the Word have only made us more confident in this belief. But they have also shown how much more work remains to be done.”