UT’s Best Buddies chapter is rallying behind the campaign Spread the Word to End the Word this month.
Best Buddies pairs students with disabled and differently-abled people in Austin to provide companionship. This year, the organization wants to increase promotion of Spread the Word to End the Word, a worldwide movement with the goal of asking people to pledge to stop saying the “r-word,” a common slur for people with mental disabilities.
Kacey Vandervort, a Best Buddies student member, said this campaign is a starting point for creating more accepting communities for all people.
“The ‘r-word’ hurts because it’s offensive. It’s derogatory,” said Vandervort, communication sciences and disorders sophomore. “Language affects attitudes, and attitudes affect actions.”
The Best Buddies program at UT is one of the largest in the country, Vandervort said, and they will be tabling on Speedway Mall from March 24-29 to raise awareness for their cause.
Additionally, they are creating a film that will feature members of the UT community pledging to stop saying the “r-word.” The film will likely be featured at next year’s Best Buddies film festival, which is held in March to educate the Austin public about life with a disability.
“The film festival shows the community that a disability does not define a person’s life but is rather just a piece of it,” said Akhil Jonnalagadda, an economics senior who attended this year’s festival on March 3.
Dhruva Athreya, film festival co-director, said the festival is hosted in the Union Theatre and is open to the Austin public, with about 200 people attending their
While Athreya said he believes it is important for individuals to stop saying the “r-word,” he said it is even more important to understand why the word is hurtful in the first place.
“It is more important to promote diversity, kindness and respect,” neuroscience junior Athreya said. “When people understand those things, they are going to naturally stop saying epithets to the community itself.”
Members and nonmembers competed in a 120-person dodgeball tournament fundraiser in Gregory Gymnasium on March 10 to promote the campaign.
“It is so important to embrace everyone simply on the merit of their humanness,” Athreya said. “We all feel the same emotions. We all love, we all laugh, we all cry and we are all so very similar and human.”