Monday, March 23, 2009

ADAPT urges a public apology from President Obama over Special Olympics quip


For Immediate Release:
March 23, 2009

For Information Contact:
Bob Kafka 512-431-4085
Marsha Katz 406-544-9504

ADAPT Urges Obama to Apologize, then Move Forward with Disability Policy Agenda

Washington, D.C.--- In the wake of President Obama’s unfortunate comment on his low bowling score as reason to include him in the Special Olympics, ADAPT urges the President to publicly apologize to the millions of people with disabilities who were offended by the stereotype, and then move on.

“While I am convinced the President did not intentionally set out to disparage people with disabilities,” said Bob Kafka, national organizer for ADAPT, “the remark that flew out of his mouth is so indicative of the deeply held and, until now, widely tolerated stereotypes of people with disabilities. Look at all the people who laughed. These stereotypes have resulted in our exclusion from the mainstream of society and have kept us locked up and segregated in institutions and nursing homes.”

In an ironic turn of events, just prior to his appearance on the Jay Leno Show where the remark was made, the President strongly addressed employment of people with disabilities at a Town Hall meeting in Los Angeles. President Obama minced no words when he said, “So one of the things that I think is important is to make sure, as you pointed out, that we don't see this as an afterthought, a segregated program, but we are infusing every department, every agency, every act that we take with a mindfulness about the importance of persons with disabilities, their skills, their talents, their capacity.”

“Actions speak louder than words, so ADAPT challenges the President to make good on those welcome words by advancing and promoting a strong disability policy agenda,” added Kafka. “One that includes community-based long-term services and supports in health care reform, and assures that people with all disabilities of all ages have the opportunity to live, work, go to school, and recreate in their communities alongside their neighbors. People with disabilities have so much to contribute to the fabric of American life, but we can’t do it locked away or shunted aside in segregated environments.”

ADAPT will be in Washi ngton, D.C. April 25-30, working for passage of the Community Choice Act (CCA), and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court “Olmstead” decision. In deciding Olmstead, the Court affirmed the mandate in the Americans with Disabilities Act that says services to people with disabilities must be provided in the “most integrated setting.”

As part of the Olmstead celebration, ADAPT will hold its annual Fun Run in Upper Senate Park on April 26th, where the National Fun Runner will be Lois Curtis, one of the two plaintiffs in the original L.C. and E.W. vs. Olmstead lawsuit. Since being freed from a Georgia institution, Curtis has gained recognition as an artist, and will bring an exhibit of her work with her.

During its week in Washington, ADAPT wants the President to meet with a small group of representatives to discuss the inclusion of the Community Choice Act/long term services and supports in health care reform, and ho w best to work together to finally gain real, national implementation of the ten-year old Olmstead decision.