When the White House Calls…

The White House imageWhitehouse.gov asked us to give you a heads up on a series of teleconference you might find interesting or useful. When the White House calls…we answer – so here’s your heads up.

Starting this Friday, December 3, the White House will begin hosting monthly teleconferences with updates on various disability issues. Also, these calls will be an opportunity for the Obama Administration to introduce people who work on disability policy in the federal government. We’d love to get comments from any of you who join in on the calls to find out what the hot button topics are and if they address concerns that are important to you.

Just for fun, you might also check out whitehouse.gov to see what’s going on. There is a treasure trove of information about the administration, our government and current issues ranging from civil rights to education to healthcare. You can tune into presidential addresses and even follow the Presidential blog, which recently posted an informative analysis on Medicare from the Wall Street Journal.

Call Information

Dial into the teleconference Friday, December 3 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern

(800) 230-1092

Title: Disability Call (use instead of code)

For live captioning, at time of call, log this website.

Image by Davidlat.

The Arc Invited to White House Meeting on ‘the R-word’

Washington, D.C. – The Arc of the United States (The Arc) has been invited to join a meeting at the White House today with other disabilities rights advocates to discuss the controversy around White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s use of “the r-word.”

Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, wrote a letter to Rahm Emanuel pressing for White House support of Rosa’s Law. This legislation would change the term “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” to “intellectual disabilities” in several federal statutes such as education and employment laws.

WHO: Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc; Andy Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities; Hannah Jacobs, parent; Julie Petty, self-advocate; Tim Shriver, Special Olympics; and Ricardo Thornton, self-advocate.

WHAT: Meeting with disabilities advocates to discuss Chief of Staff’s use of “the r-word.”

WHEN: TODAY, Wednesday, February 03, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

The Arc Condemns White House Aides Use of ‘R-Word’

Washington, DC–Reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used an epithet relating to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is both shocking and disappointing.

According to a Wall Street Journal story on an embattled White House, “Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul. ‘F—ing retarded,’ Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants.” We hope that the Members of Congress in that meeting were equally offended.

This is the second serious verbal miscue by the Administration about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 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, sparked justifiable outrage from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The President subsequently apologized for his remarks and disabilities advocates saw it as a teachable moment. Mr. Emanuel’s use of hateful language would suggest that it is the White House staff that needs to be taught a lesson in respect for people with disabilities.

Statements such as these—particularly when used by someone at high level—amplifies pervasive societal attitudes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities somehow don’t measure up—that their lives are worth less. “Using a slur about people with intellectual disabilities to criticize other people just isn’t right,” said Peter V. Berns, chief executive officer of The Arc of the United States. “For people with disabilities it is disrespectful and demeaning and only serves to marginalize a constituency that already struggles for empowerment on every front,” Berns added.

Disability rights advocates had high hopes for this Administration when the President appointed a Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. This was a move that the Administration called: “our first step to ensure that we have a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the highest levels of our Administration.”

The more than seven million individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families demand an apology for Mr. Emanuel’s use of language that denigrates our constituency. The White House needs to lead by example and demonstrate through words and actions that it is not acceptable to use people with disabilities as a source for ridicule. To condone this language is to deny opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace, in the community, in school, and in every other quarter 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.” Given the two White House incidents of inappropriate use of the term regarding these constituencies, The Arc hopes that the Obama Administration will put its full force behind the enactment of this legislation.