The Arc says people with disabilities are bowled over by President's comment
March 20, 2009
THE ARC CALLS ON PRES. OBAMA TO MEET WITH
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Silver Spring, MD – On behalf of the over four million individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, we are deeply dismayed and indeed surprised by President Barack Obama’s unfortunate statement during his appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
Throughout his campaign, during the transition and in the early months of the new Administration, the President has reached out to the disability community and demonstrated a deep commitment to the issues impacting people with disabilities and their families. When he appointed a Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy last month, the appointment was heralded by the Administration as “our first step to ensure that we have a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the highest levels of our Administration.” The President has also articulated a comprehensive policy agenda that is of critical importance to people with disabilities. http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/disabilities/
The President’s offhanded remark has stirred sorrow and even anger from our constituents. Statements such as these reflect pervasive societal attitudes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities somehow don’t measure up – that their lives are of less worth. The biggest obstacle to including people with disabilities in community life is public attitudes.
The President may have been talking about bowling but this is not really about sports. Presidential spokesperson, Bill Burton’s, explanation that Special Olympics “gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities,” clearly misses the mark. People with disabilities want the opportunity to “shine” among colleagues in the workplace, in their own homes and apartments, in the continuing education class at a community college, in their faith communities and everywhere else. They particularly dislike and are deeply offended by remarks such as that stated by the President.
Full inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is the only way we will collectively shift our attitudinal barriers that prevent people from realizing their full potential as contributing members of the community.
Inviting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the White House for photo ops of bowling and basketball is not a solution. Instead, The Arc of the U.S. calls on President Obama to convene a meeting of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their parents and siblings, and those who support them to discuss the critical issues facing this community, such as:
700,000 individuals and families on waiting lists for home and community based services,
recent cases of abuse and brutality against people with disabilities in Iowa and Texas,
lack of funding for supported housing, supported employment, personal assistants, respite and family support that are needed to enable people to live in their communities and avoid costly and unwarranted institutions,
The ball is now in the President’s court. We await a meaningful response.