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article imagePalins, Emanuel, Limbaugh Remarks and the ADA position

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 4, 2010 in Politics
Rush Limbaugh and Rahm Emanuel have beeen criticized for using offensive language about disabilities. Is one more innocent than the other, and should either be ignored? The Department of Labor has guidelines that answer the question.
Rahm Emanuel is now high profile for his remarks given before a meeting of liberal Democrats where he referred to them as "f-----retarded." Limbaugh has made statements that Palin hasn't addressed, at least on her Facebook page. Instead this has what she has said,
The Obama Administration’s Chief of Staff scolded participants, calling them, “F---ing retarded,” according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.
A patriot in North Andover, Massachusetts, notified me of Rahm’s “retarded” slam. I join this gentleman, who is the father of a beautiful child born with Down Syndrome, in asking why the Special Olympics, National Down Syndrome Society and other groups condemning Rahm’s degrading scolding have been completely ignored by the White House. No comment from his boss, the president?
Here's the facts about it, from Think Progress, a site on the liberal side with a selection from Limbaugh's remarks:
Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards. I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are looney tunes. And I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think their big news is he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters f’ing retards. So now there’s going to be a meeting. There’s going to be a retard summit at the White House. Much like the beer summit between Obama and Gates and that cop in Cambridge.
Rahm Emanuel has apologized for his remarks, but did Limbaugh apologize for his remark about Michael J. Fox made last year? The video with this article presents Limbaugh's remark posted on You Tube, presented on the Keith Olbermann Show.
Michael J. Fox responded to Limbaugh with his own concerns after Limbaugh's remarks made in 2009.
But here is a quote from Answers.com citing CBS News, that reflects what some might consider an apology from Limbaugh about his remarks, allowing readers to decide for themselves:
"All I'm saying is I've never seen him the way he appears in this commercial for Claire McCaskill," says Limbaugh. "So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, especially since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances."
The Department of Labor expands on these issues by examining what people with disabilities want and the importance of communication about their rights and how inappropriate language affects those rights.. In the light of present discussions by the media, it is reasonable to cite it here:
Communicating With and About People with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act, other laws and the efforts of many disability organizations have made strides in improving accessibility in buildings, increasing access to education, opening employment opportunities and developing realistic portrayals of persons with disabilities in television programming and motion pictures. Where progress is still needed is in communication and interaction with people with disabilities. Individuals are sometimes concerned that they will say the wrong thing, so they say nothing at all—thus further segregating people with disabilities. Listed here are some suggestions on how to relate to and communicate with and about people with disabilities.
Words
Positive language empowers. When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. Group designations such as "the blind," "the retarded" or "the disabled" are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities. Further, words like "normal person" imply that the person with a disability isn't normal, whereas "person without a disability" is descriptive but not negative. The accompanying chart shows examples of positive and negative phrases.
Sarah Palin focused on the inappropriateness of Rahm Emanuel's speech with respect to persons with disabilities, but the issue is made much broader by groups advocating for persons with disabilities. The Department of Labor, speaking for the intention of the ADA, clearly discusses the importance of positive language for empowerment, suggesting it is reasonable for everyone, and not just a political game. Communication is considered important in the marketplace of ideas. Public figures are shown to take sides in the discussion but the Department of Labor gives the specifics about proper communication that the agency declares is appropriate for all. The agency provides answers on how folks might express themselves and guard against inappropriate language when talking about people with problems. That's what persons with disabilities say they want, so they are not segregated economically or socially. Negative language detracts from those who want equal treatment under the law, the ADA declares, and information on proper communication might help people avoid making statements that detract from the rights of others.
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