Founded by two youth leaders in 2009 as Spread the Word to End the Word, the campaign focused its first 10 years on addressing a particularly powerful form of exclusion: the word ‘retard(ed)’. In 2017, 70% of teens said they vocalized the wrong and demeaning use of the R-word when it used in conversation, up nearly 50% since 2009. Over 10 years, leaders and self-advocates collected millions of digital and physical pledges to end the R-word. 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. With leadership from Special Olympics and Best Buddies, and support from hundreds of other advocacy organizations, the campaign grew from a handful events in 2009 to reach thousands of schools today.
In 2019, Spread the Word to End the Word became Spread the Word: Inclusion. The Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign invites all people to commit to individual acts of inclusion. The campaign highlights divisions that have led to social isolation and exclusion among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) all over the world. The 200 million people with IDD represent every country, belief system, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, and ethnicity. Spread the Word Day marks an opportunity for all communities to come together, take stock and recognize the advances made – and the advancement still left to do. Last alone year alone, more than 13,000 people pledged to take action in their communities.
The Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign continues to advocate for and with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to work to make our society more inclusive. Special Olympics offers Unified Sports and inclusive leadership and education activities in nearly 8,00 schools in 49 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Many of these schools host Spread the Word events led by students inviting their peers to commit to social inclusion.
Best Buddies International youth programs promote one-to-one friendship opportunities and leadership development in schools around the world, raising awareness and acceptance for people with IDD in their communities. In many of the nearly 3,000 elementary school, middle school, high school, and college Best Buddies chapters worldwide, the Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign has become an integral part of the organization’s programming and showcases the commitment to create inclusive opportunities for people with IDD on a global level.
To learn more about Spread the Word, visit spreadtheword.global.