The Arc Invited to Meeting at White House on the R-word
The Arc of the United States has been invited to attend a meeting at the White House to discuss the recent controversy surrounding the Chief of Staff's use of the r-word. Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer, of The Arc will be attending along with other disability advocates and self-advocates, including: Andy Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities; Hannah Jacobs, parent; Julie Petty, self-advocate; Tim Shriver, Special Olympics; and Ricardo Thornton, self-advocate.
The Arc Asks for Apology and for Support of Rosa's Law
The following is the text of a letter emailed to White House Chief of Staff on January 28, 2010:
January 28, 2010
Mr. Rahm Emanuel
Chief of Staff
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20050
Dear Mr. Emanuel:
It was deeply distressing to read news reports of your use of an epithet relating to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Constituents of The Arc of the United States (The Arc), the nation’s oldest and largest organization promoting and protecting the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, are justifiably upset by the insensitivity to their struggle revealed by the use of this derogatory language.
This recent verbal miscue echoes President Obama’s unfortunate statement last year, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, equating his poor bowling performance with that of people with intellectual disabilities. As disability rights advocates, we expected more from this Administration and presumed that the appointment of a Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy was an assurance that the needs and concerns of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would be understood and solidly represented.
Statements such as these emanating from the highest levels of government only intensify pervading societal attitudes that people with intellectual disabilities somehow don’t measure up—that their lives are worth less.
The more than seven million Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families deserve a public apology for words that are the moral equivalent of hate speech. This language is disrespectful and demeaning and further undermines the struggle for empowerment that this constituency faces on all fronts: employment, education, housing, and inclusion in every aspect of society.
The Arc of the United States strongly supports legislation (S.2781) introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland that would change the term “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” to “intellectual disabilities” in several federal statutes such as education and employment laws. As advocates for people with intellectual disabilities, we are waging a battle to change hearts and minds and ensure that our constituency enjoys full inclusion and participation in the community. The Arc hopes that the Obama Administration will offer vigorous support for this legislation, which if enacted will be a step forward in achieving these goals.
Thank you in advance for your consideration; we look forward to hearing from you.
Peter V. Berns
Chief Executive Officer
The Arc of the United States