Shah Rukh Khan may have apologised for his casual use of the word ‘dumb,’ but city groups for the physically challenged say celebs need to be very careful whenever they speak, as every word uttered by them sets an example.
The 45-year-old actor, who was speaking at a promotional event in Chennai for his latest film RA.One, said he is keen to act in Tamil movies but only in a “dumb” character because he did not know the language and it would be difficult to deliver dialogues with perfection. This led to a sharp reaction from a physically challenged girl in the audience. Promptly apologising, Khan asked her for the right word to use to refer to people with speech impairment, and she said it was ‘mute.’
“We expect people, especially celebrities of such stature, to use correct terms when talking about specially-abled people. It’s as bad as you call someone by someone else’s name,” says a spokesperson for the Disabled Welfare Society, Delhi. Shyama Chona, founder, Tamana special school, says, “It’s a matter of self esteem for those challenged. Had Shah Rukh used the correct term, he’d have given a great boost to so many.”
Others in Bollywood, too, agree. “I would never call a disabled person a cripple. It’s just too demeaning and derogatory,” says actor Eesha Koppikhar.
And it was the ‘r’ word last year
In September 2010, Akshay Kumar had spoken out against the word ‘retard’. The 44-year-old actor, the face of Special Olympics — held for intellectually challenged people — actively promoted the ‘Ban the R word’ campaign.
Speaking out against Hollywood actor Jennifer Aniston, who had called herself a retard on TV, Akki said, “It just shows how unaware we are and how frivolously we use this word. One could never understand how much it hurts — it demeans people who strive harder in life than we could ever imagine.”