A Community Effort: Respect and Inclusion for All

Ann Costello
The Playbook
Published in
4 min readMar 5, 2018


Spread the Word to End the Word is a global campaign that asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word (retarded) and to create more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. The first Spread the Word event in 2009 sought to change the mindsets of people around the world and it has.

The Foundation has partnered with and has been a major supporter of

global health program since 2010, working diligently to create access to #InclusiveHealth around the world.

In 2011, The Golisano Foundation also began Spread the Word to End the Word day activities in Rochester, New York to promote awareness and education encouraging respect for people with intellectual disabilities.

We’ve been incredibly proud of how Rochester as a community has made a commitment to ending the use of the R-word. From small beginnings in 2011 to our eighth year of events in 2018, we have seen tremendous growth. In 2011, a local American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry chapter at the University of Rochester Medical Center helped kick start Spread the Word activities. Since then, we’ve created video messages from Tom Golisano, radio announcements, local events, and have even had proclamations made by the City of Rochester Mayor and the County of Monroe County Executive.

Rochester promotes Spread the Word to End the World not just on March 7, but throughout the month of March, and we carry the spirit of the campaign with us every day of the year. We believe inclusion and respect should be promoted throughout the entire year, not just one day. We have made a 24/7 year-round commitment to working towards a more inclusive society.

Per capita, Rochester, New York has the second highest activation around Spread the Word to End the World in the world. We are immensely proud that we have made such an impact and earned such widespread community support.

This year, we have numerous activities planned. Highlights include a Spread the Word Amerks Game, hosted by Rochester’s local minor-league hockey team, inclusive choir concerts, and pledge tables hosted by local universities. We’ll kick off activities with a press conference on March 7th at Bishop Kearney High School where local city and county leaders will proclaim the day End the R-Word Day.

To build on past success we are promoting Take the Pledge on social media, and we’re being joined in this effort by local politicians, county representatives, the mayor, and state senators. We’ve encouraged them to activate and spread the word on their social channels. This engagement has allowed us to reach new audiences and further spread the word.

Not only is it crucial for people to stop using the R-word, in the future we also hope that this event can move beyond language. As we see more inclusive communities where people with and without disabilities have the same access to health care, education, employment, and housing, we will finally tear down the stigmas felt by people with intellectual disabilities. We see hope for a bright future that is completely inclusive.

In sowing the seeds for an inclusive future, I am proud to announce that with the help of Best Buddies, a fellow partner and R-word sponsor, and Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, Rochester has 40 schools that are committed to inclusion. Starting with our youth is the key to an inclusive future where everyone is treated equally and celebrated for their individual abilities.

We are proud that in such a short time we have made so much progress in Rochester. We challenge individuals and communities alike to make the pledge to stop using the R-word and commit to respecting people of all abilities.

If you have a story, video, photo, poem, essay, guide, dance, (or anything else) to share with the world, follow the three easy steps in this link or publish your story on Medium and email it to spalumbo@specialolympics.org. If you prefer, you could also put your story into a word document, let us know whether you would like it published under your name or anonymously, and email it to spalumbo@specialolympics.org.

Pledge your support to end the R-Word here.