GMU students fight back against the 'R' word

FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) - They say, they're just like anyone else.

A group of students at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Va. are fighting back against a single word -- a word they say is hurtful and not representative of what they really are.

That word is "retarded."

GMU students like Lauren Hyer, a sophmore with cerebral palsy, say they are tired of being defined by their condition, and called "retarded."

So, Lauren and her twin sister Leanne decided to do something about it.

The sisters enlisted the help of professional photographer Jonathan Thorpe, and together, they created a short video that is making its way across the Internet, and raising awareness.

The video, called "Spread the Word Against the Word," already has more than 20,000 hits on YouTube in just the few days since it was posted.

The video stars a number of students from Mason Life, a special program especially for students with disabilities, all speaking out against the "R" word.

"I feel like people just don't know that this word is so offensive to certain people," said Leanne Hyer.

"We need to educate people," said GMU student Kamran Khan. "Sometimes people forget. We need to keep telling people."

"Not only does it hurt the person whom you said it to, but also the others that love them very much," said student Kevin Bennett.

Leanne said, people with disabilities can surprise you with the amazing things they can do. For example, her sister Lauren is a three-sport Special Olympics athlete.

"People might look at me like I'm different, but I'm not," said student Brandis Budd, who appears in the video. "I'm the same person as you, but with a disability."

It's things like that, that will keep Leanne fighting against the "R" word and other such stigmas and stereotypes, she said.

"Every day I get to see their beautiful personalities -- how funny they are, how smart they are, how they see the world in a different way, and how their perspective is so enlightening," Leanne said. "I really wanted the rest of the world to see this."

View the "Spread the Word Against the Word" video on YouTube.

{ }