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Joint Statement of Disability Leaders

Julie Petty, Ricardo Thornton, Hannah Jacobs, Andy Imparato, Peter Berns, and Tim Shriver

We came here today to meet with Rahm Emanuel and share with him our views on the importance and impact of language. We wanted to invite Mr. Emanuel and all of America to understand the collective efforts of our community to remove the words “retard” and “retarded” from every day speech.

The “R-word” is polluting our language. Every day our community hears this word – in schools and workplaces, in print and movies, and on radio and television. And every day they suffer its dehumanizing effects: mockery, stigma, and ridicule. This is a word that is incredibly damaging, not only to the seven million people with intellectual disabilities, but also to their friends, family, and to all of us.

We are thankful to Mr. Emanuel for meeting with us today and hearing our concerns. He sincerely apologized for his mistake and the pain it caused in our community.

We are happy that he will join more than 54,000 other Americans in pledging to end the use of the “R-word” at and that he committed that the administration would continue to look for ways to partner with us, including examining pending legislation in Congress to remove the “R-word” from federal law.

Our community has earned the right to be respected instead of ridiculed. We have suffered injustice for generations and we are demanding that it end.

This is another small step on the road to a country that accepts the gifts of all.