New York, NY (January 29, 2021) – The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) denounces the use of outmoded and offensive terms to refer to individuals with Down syndrome. The R-word has no place in the public discourse or the halls of Congress. Individuals with Down syndrome or any other disability have the right to be treated with the same respect and dignity as any other member of society. It is long past time to normalize this baseline.
Members of Congress tasked with shaping the future of disability justice in our schools, hospitals and workplaces are responsible for more than just meeting the baseline. These elected officials must hold themselves and each other to the highest possible standards of fairness and equity rather than perpetuating unfounded stereotypes that people with disabilities are somehow incomplete.
The video of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene that has appeared on social media is heartbreaking and unacceptable. We are outraged to see an elected official use the R-word despite knowing it is offensive. We have reached out to her office and other contacts on Capitol Hill to express our condemnation. Refraining from the use of insulting terms is not a matter of political correctness, but rather an exercise in common decency.
NDSS is committed to working with all Members of Congress to help ensure they understand the tenets of existing civil rights laws so that they might treat everyone respectfully, govern effectively and advance legislation that benefits all members of the community. We would welcome the opportunity to educate Representative Greene to deepen her understanding of the impact of her words, but we cannot dismiss the hurt her words have already caused in our community.
NDSS has created a preferred language guide, available on our website for the public to access and share. We must all remember that the words we use have a powerful impact on others. Using appropriate language when referring to individuals with Down syndrome shows respect and honors their humanity, abilities and contributions to society.