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Petition to banish the 'R-word' gains support

Barbara Dubin frowned when she thought about the "R-word."

"It's very graphic and very nasty," said Dubin, 57, who lives in a group apartment home in Oceanside. The "R-word" refers to the word "retarded." Dubin was one of hundreds of clients at AHRC Nassau who signed a petition Wednesday urging an end to the use of the word in society.

AHRC, which provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, held the petition rally in conjunction with Special Olympics and Best Buddies International. Special Olympics launched a campaign last March to banish the word "retard."

Dubin said she's been called "retarded" in her life, and "a lot of other words, too. It makes me feel very bad, very sad and very hurt."

Susan Limiti, an activity coach and coordinator at AHRC Nassau, said while the word was previously accepted terminology, today it is considered outdated and offensive. The organization changed its name from "Association for the Help of Retarded Children" to simply AHRC in 2003 to avoid the use of the word "retarded."

"Unfortunately it has the connotation of being a negative word," Limiti said. "These are people with disabilities - they're not slow."

At AHRC's Freeport site, the line of AHRC clients waiting for their chance to fill out the online petition in the facility's tiny computer lab was out the door.

Michael Tindal, 44, of Rockville Centre, signed the petition, which is available at

He said he did it because he finds the word insulting.

"We're not dumb," Tindal said. "Everybody's got minds."

Coleen Mackin, 33, of Roslyn Heights, was guiding fellow AHRC clients in filling out the petitions.

"I hope it will help," she said.

In addition, organizers are calling for the passage of "Rosa's Law," federal legislation that would change the term "mental retardation" into "intellectual disability" in the wording of federal laws.

The bill, S. 2781, was introduced in November. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of the legislation.


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