Advocating for people with disabilities comes easily for Monique Shah.
As a Special Olympian, she knows the pain and humiliation felt by the intellectually disabled when they are called a “retard”.
To eliminate the use of the offensive and hateful word, Motionball launched the Yellowcard campaign last week in downtown Toronto.
Motionball is a non-profit organization that builds awareness and raises funds for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation (SOCF), targeting a “next generation” of supporters – Canadian professionals.
Canadians are being encouraged to sign on to the Yellowcard website and take up the challenge to jettison the “R” word from their vocabulary.
June Shah supported her daughter joining other Special Olympians at the Yellowcard campaign launch.
“The word is belittling and it really does not describe who the people with intellectual disability diagnosis are,” she said.
Suffering seizures that caused partial damage to her cortex after being immunized at age two, Edmonton-born Shah was introduced to the Special Olympics in 1996 at a Houston high school where she participated in six sports.
The family spent seven years in Texas, where her father was on a work assignment.
“Before becoming a Special Olympian, Monique could barely walk through a door without having to brace against something,” recalled her mother. “She had motor skills challenges and was very shy. The next thing I know she is involved in several sports. It’s like she just developed wings and flew off.”
Shah made her Special Olympics World Summer Games (WSG) debut in Ireland 11 years ago as a member of the United States five-a-side soccer side.
As a Team Canada representative in 2011, she won gold medals in the 100- and 200-metre finals at the WSG in Greece.
The eldest of three children born to Guyanese immigrant parents, Shah won gold and silver medals in the 100-metre and high jump events at last summer’s Canada Games in Vancouver.
She trains year-round and is an avid bowler and volunteer at Bradford Valley Long Term Care Centre.