June 13, 2013
Mr. Bill Maher
c/o Sarah Fuller
TRUE Public Relations
6725 Sunset Blvd. Suite 470
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dear Mr. Maher,
I am writing to you on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society to express our deep disappointment and concern with your ongoing attacks on people who have Down syndrome. We have written to you before, and we are writing again today concerning your calling Trig Palin a “retard.” Regardless of the true target of your comments, a verbal attack on people with Down syndrome undermines the progress made by so many self-advocates, their families and supporters to promote their value, acceptance and inclusion. We request you stop using people with Down syndrome as a means to get attention.
When people with Down syndrome are inappropriately referenced or forced to be the target of this type of ‘humor,’ it sustains and perpetuates these low expectations and negative stereotypes and further impedes the acceptance of people with disabilities in schools, the workplace and the community. Negative and inaccurate public perceptions are the greatest barriers we face in achieving acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
We hope that you take this opportunity to gain a better understanding and take a different position than you have to date. At the National Down Syndrome Society, we understand that you may not have been exposed to people with cognitive disabilities, to their challenges, and to their progress in being able to full lives in their communities.
Approximately 400,000 people in the United States have Down syndrome, which is caused by a third copy of chromosome 21. Individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities work very hard – harder than most people – to learn how to read, write, play sports, have a job, live independently, and become valuable members of their communities. They deserve to be respected and celebrated for their success and achievements, and not to have their clinical diagnosis used as a punch-line. More often than not, these individuals are underestimated their whole lives by people who focus on their disability, rather than their abilities.
We would be happy to provide more information about people with Down syndrome so that you can use your celebrity to improve public perception of people with Down syndrome, rather than hindering their progress.
We hope you will not make further comments related to Down syndrome unless they are an apology or a positive statement of their abilities.
Julie B. Cevallos
Vice President Marketing
National Down Syndrome Society
New York, NY 10012