By TNH Editorial Staff
The University of New Hampshire Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) held an event entitled “Special Spirit at UNH” in the Lundholm Gymnasium on Wednesday night. The event featured athletes from Portsmouth High School and Pinkerton Academy Special Olympic basketball teams who played before a gym filled with fans, dance teams and the UNH marching band. Those who attended last night’s event said the atmosphere was electric and that the crowd was engaged throughout.
Events like these are critical for UNH and SOTA to continue to host and promote on a regular basis as they allow young men and women with disabilities to participate in events that may have been otherwise unavailable to them in the not-so-distant past. Even more important than the entertainment for the crowd and athletes alike is the social awareness the event raised in helping end the use of harsh words to describe those living with disabilities.
It is an unfortunate reality that the words “retard” and “retarded” are often used as a way of saying someone or something is stupid, pointless or meaningless. The abuse of these words must stop, and it is imperative that individuals are aware of the negative ramifications associated with the disturbing lack of intelligence, thoughtfulness and common decency that one displays while using them.
Events like the one held last night are steps in the right direction. Showing that young men and women born with disabilities are not dissimilar to students at UNH — or anywhere throughout the world for that matter — and certainly not deserving of the negative thoughts that come to mind when using such disparaging terms to describe a young man or woman.
Although we are a relatively small community in rural New Hampshire, a student body that is educated and aware of the negative stigma that is unfairly attached to persons whom were born with unique characteristics can spread knowledge to the communities they go off to during the summer, during breaks and after graduation.
Those born with disabilities are as intellectual, creative and sympathetic as anyone without a disability. It would not only be ignorant to think otherwise, but also downright asinine. Someone who has been faced with such adversity from birth is not only worthy of anyone’s utmost respect, but should also be viewed as a shining example of bravery, resilience and strength. For the majority of us, the struggles these athletes and those faced with disabilities encounter on a daily basis are incomparable and incomprehensible.
As a staff, we commend SOTA for holding an event that allows these aforementioned qualities of high character to be put on display for the public, and we implore students at this university — and across the globe — to think before you speak, and bravo SOTA.