Saturday, April 23, 2011

A free speech app, Lady Gaga's sorry about saying "retarded" and other stuff worth knowing about (4/23 edition)

• In one of those amazing life coincidences, I met a dad the other night through my friend Wendy whose friend has a child with autism. That friend is working on a revolutionary speech app, Xalts (he explains it in the above video). It's an open source, visual language application and library. You'll be able to import vocabularies on existing devices (though not the images that are on them, to avoid copyright infringement). Or create your own set of vocabulary from scratch, then upload them to a library (and share them with others). You won't need to access this using a device with Apple iTunes; it'll work on any device. They're looking for funding right now; chip in if you're game and keep your eye on them.

• Next Friday, April 29, is the Make-A-Wish Foundation's World Wish Day, a celebration of wish giving. You can help grant wishes, or nominate a child. I loved this video of a kid who became Electron Boy on World Wish Day 2010.

And—woo hoo!—four Wish kids made it into a Justin Bieber's video, Pray. Justin's granted 35 wishes so far. Good stuff.

ONE, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases, has this awesome public service ad out about caring about kids in Africa. They desperately need vaccinations that'll help stop pneumonia and diarrhea—two of the biggest killers of children in poor countries. Yes, it's hard to believe that poop can be deadly, but it takes the lives of more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. They die from dehydration.

Sign the ONE petition (it literally takes three seconds) to ask world leaders to support funding. This effort could help save 4 MILLION children's lives in the next five years.

• There's a new curriculum being implemented in elementary and middle schools, Choose Zero, that'll teach kids about reducing carbon emissions in their homes, schools, and communities. It features the Nissan LEAF, an electric car that was just named the 2011 World Car of the Year.

On the site, kids can see the effects of their choices on the environment—and you can enter for a chance to win a three-year lease on the LEAF.

• "I've written loads of music. Why would I try to put out a song and think I'm getting one over on everybody? That's retarded," Lady GaGa told a writer doing a story for British music mag NME. After advocacy groups called her on it, she issued an apology to Perez Hilton: "I consider it part of my life's work and music to push the boundaries of love and acceptance. My apologies for not speaking thoughtfully. To anyone that was hurt, please know that it was furiously unintentional."

Who knows whether GaGa or her pr person were the driving force behind the apology. I don't care; what matters most is that a celeb is drawing attention to the issue. You, me, other bloggers and groups can raise hell about the use of the word "retard," but it takes a celebrity to get a whole lot of people thinking about it.

Meanwhile, my post about tweeting to people who use the r-word continues to get spectacularly clueless remarks. Sample: "People with mental retardation will never be campaigning against the use of the word 'retarded' because they do not have the intellectual capacity to understand why it is offensive. If it doesn't bother them, why the heck does it bother you so much?"

Le sigh.


  1. lots of good stuff going on!

    sighing with you on the last part. unbelievable. standing with you against the derogatory use of that word...


  2. You accidently wrote "intentional" instead of "unintentional" in Lady GagGa's apology! But other than that a great post

  3. Still having trouble with this PC-mad world. I can't walk. Should I get offended by the word "lame" just because it was what they used to call such people? No, that's ridiculous. Retarded isn't any different. It's not like she called a person retarded. People shouldn't be so sensitive.

  4. I totally disagree. The word retard is extremely offensive and the sad part is, there are people who think it is ok to use. These people with developmental challenges can't even defend themsleves. It's NOT ok. Plain and simple.

  5. There is a difference between calling someone a retard and calling something retarded. She wasn't saying it in reference to those with developmental delays. Therefore I don't see how it is so offensive. It's all about context. It is like when people say that someone/something is having a "spaz" in comparison to calling a person a "spaz" (and personally I wouldn't care if they called me one as I use the word in reference to myself all the time, but some people might).

  6. E: The use of the word "retarded," even if is not directed at a person with intellectual disabilities and is in a whole other context, perpetuates the stereotype of people with intellectual disabilities as being stupid. Why not just use another word if there are people out there who take offense to it—as I do, and many people do? There is a reason THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS started a campaign against it.

  7. E,

    If you really want to know what the R-means to families with disabled kids, read this :

    You cannot compare "Spaz" to "Retarded" because no mother has read the word "spaz" on her baby's medical chart.

    Replace a race or a religion in your sentence to mean "stupid" or "dumb" and then, maybe you'll get what we are saying.

  8. Alright, replace "spaz" with "crippled" then if you want to get medical. Even if they don't put that on medical reports now, they did at one stage, as you said in your post (Tina), which was nice and all. I'm sure your son will contribute to the world in his own way.

    As for using other words, sure. I don't use the word, but I'm not going to shun those who do. People, like reporters, get so afraid that they'll offend SOMEONE that they come up with phrases like "intellectually unfortunate" as I heard a reporter reporting on the Lady Gaga story say. It starts getting ridiculous.

    Ironically I do cringe when someone refers to me (or people with disabilities) as "special". But that's another discussion I suppose.

    Thought I'd end this post with some encouragement. I stumbled across this website the other day and was really amazed by this mother's dedication to her son and helping him find his place in the world. Have a look:

  9. There are multiple videos of adults with various disabilities talking about how hurtful the R word is to them. So I don't want to hear a damn thing from anyone who says "they don't know what I'm saying!"

    It just frustrates me when people say it because out of all the words they could use they pick the one that denigrates a group of people who I work with and adore.

  10. You should save those R word tweets, and maybe publish them in an online book entitled CLUELESS.

  11. I think Gaga's example shows that even accomplished people can be ignorant in some areas, and it was very big of her to own up to it and apologize. She seems to be a sincere advocate for human rights, so I don't think she meant it in harm. Good for her for apologizing.

  12. To that comment about people w/intellectual disabilities never campaigning against the r-word; I wish that person could watch the video on youtube NJ Self Advocates speak out against the rword. Yes, some of them do campaign against the use of the rword.

  13. who ever said people with intulectuall disablities cant campaign against the r word i say listen to this: My buddy pointed to the spread the word to end the word box and said stop bad word i(i will stop that bad word)


Thanks for sharing!

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