A young woman whose Down syndrome triplet brother was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer is trying to wipe out the deeply offensive term ‘retard’.
Polly Hammerton, 23 and a triplet with siblings Healy and Pierce, wrote a blog post last month about growing up in rural Victoria with a disabled sibling.
The speech pathologist told 9 News that every time she hears the word she feels as if she has been ‘punched in the stomach.’
Polly Hammerton (middle), with her older triplet Healy (left), and younger triplet Pierce (right)
‘People who are affected by it often have a disability themselves. For those who don’t, it’s difficult to see how it hurts,’she said.
The 23-year-old’s article has now attracted a wave of support both here and overseas by those who feel society should move on from the outdated and hurtful term.
In the article she describes her disappointment at hearing the word ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ being used by strangers, people with platforms such as comedians, and even her friends.
Her younger brother Pierce has Down syndrome, bipolar disorder, and autism.
Polly’s younger brother Pierce has experienced discrimination due to his disabilities
Polly says that from a young age, after a bully in her hometown made fun of Pierce one day for getting off the ’nuffy’ bus, she began to realise what they were in for.
The young woman said she carried ‘the lifelong emotional and psychological pain a particular word has brought to my family and myself, growing up with my triplet brother who has multiple disabilities.’
Pierce has been recently diagnosed with aggressive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a type of cancer that has been unresponsive to chemotherapy.
It was this news and thinking what she could do for her brother, along with recent movements such as the #metoo campaign, that prompted Polly to start the push to educate people about using the word.
Ms Hammerton told Daily Mail Australia she would like to raise awareness about the pain the word can cause as often those most affected cannot defend themselves.
‘Many people still do not see or understand the negative association and stigma it has for people with disabilities, even when it’s not used directly at someone with a disability.’
Polly, who grew into a career as a speech pathologist – a testament to her attitude and relationship to Pierce, says her brother is unique and inspirational and that he would be grateful for what she is doing.
Her goal is simply to urge people to think about the language they use, why they use it, and how it affects others.
‘Increasing people’s awareness, particularly for a vulnerable population, I think that’s something worth advocating for.’
The triplets (pictured) grew up in country Victoria and Polly says that from a young age, after a bully made fun of Pierce one day, she began to realise what they were in for