Friday, August 22, 2008

IACC Seeks Public Comments

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and its Services Subcommittee are requesting public comments on autism research, services, and related issues. These suggestions will be considered in setting the federal government's priorities for autism funding. This is a good opportunity for self-advocates to be heard:

On behalf of the IACC, the National Institute of Mental Health has issued two Requests for Information (RFI):

Response Due 9/30/08: IACC Draft Strategic Plan for ASD Research is Available for Comment. The purpose of this time-sensitive RFI is to seek comments on the draft Strategic Plan from ASD stakeholders such as individuals with ASD and their families, autism advocates, scientists, health professionals, therapists, educators, officials of state and local programs for ASD, and the public at large. Please see the official RFI notice NOT-MH-08-021 at for more information and instructions for responding by the deadline of September 30, 2008. Responses should be directed to Please note: The draft Strategic Plan does not include cost estimates for implementation. However, the IACC has formed a workgroup to advise the IACC about the budgetary requirements needed to fulfill the research objectives described in the draft Strategic Plan. The IACC will review the workgroup recommendations at its next meeting on November 21, 2008.

Response Due 9/19/08: Priorities for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Services Subcommittee for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) The IACC is interested in receiving your input and ideas about high-priority questions and issues surrounding services and supports to people with ASD of all ages, and specific research initiatives on ASD services and supports. Please see the official RFI notice NOT-MH-08-016 at for more information and instructions for responding by the deadline of September 19, 2008. Responses should be directed to

For more information about the IACC, please see

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

R Word PSA

ASAN is distributing a public service announcement, created by Christschool, in response to the offensive language used in the movie "Tropic Thunder," which is discussed below in a press release from The Arc of Virginia.

For Immediate Release
The Arc of Virginia Condemns Negative Depiction of People with Intellectual Disabilities in Film "Tropic Thunder"

The Arc of Virginia
Advocating for people with developmental disabilities and their families

Contact: Jamie Trosclair (804) 649-8481 ext. 101 or

The Arc of Virginia Condemns Negative Depiction of People with Intellectual Disabilities in Film "Tropic Thunder"

Richmond, Virginia- - The Arc of Virginia announced a statewide campaign to address the portrayal of an individual with an intellectual disability in the movie "Tropic Thunder" which opened nationwide this week.

"We are urging the general public not to spend their hard earned dollars on this film because of its deplorable and demeaning view of a person with an intellectual disability," said Howard Cullum, President of The Arc of Virginia. "This is an opportunity to educate our neighbors about the rights of people with disabilities - most importantly to live with the same dignity afforded every ordinary American," added Mr. Cullum.

"Tropic Thunder" features Ben Stiller portraying "Simple Jack," a person with an intellectual disability; this character is repeatedly referred to as a "retard," "moron," and "imbecile."

The Arc of Virginia and its local chapters join the efforts of The Arc of the United States and other national advocacy groups mobilizing around the use of hate-speech in referring to persons with intellectual disabilities. The Arc of Virginia is encouraging people with intellectual disabilities, their families, self-advocates, members and other stakeholders to participate in a nationwide "Rally for Respect" by boycotting the film and establishing a presence around the movie theatres where the film is being shown.

Chapters of The Arc of Virginia will have a presence at local movie theatres screening the movie throughout the opening weekend. Organizers and advocates will be distributing flyers on the R-word and hate speech along with other educational materials.

"It is not cool to say the word 'retard,'" said Co-Executive Director of The Arc of Northern Virginia Jill Egle. "The 'r-word' is very offensive to people with intellectual disabilities. I have an intellectual disability. I live and work in the community and treat everyone I meet with respect. I deserve that same respect. This is an educational opportunity for DreamWorks and for all of Hollywood."

During the 2008 General Assembly session, Virginians with intellectual disabilities initiated a grassroots movement to replace references of "mentally retarded" and "mental retardation" with "people with intellectual disability" in state code. The bill which sought to do so, HB760/SB620, passed almost unanimously, but also included a re-enactment clause that would require the state legislature to pass the bill next year in order for it to take effect.

One of the chief patrons of the bill, Delegate Chuck Caputo, joined Mr. Cullum and Ms. Egle in expressing concern about the movie, "I am extremely disappointed that this movie so strongly reinforces negative stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities. It is critical that we continue our efforts to educate the public on just how demeaning the "R" word is and that we take whatever steps are necessary to remove the word from usage in Virginia government and in the Code of Virginia."

"When we ask Virginia not to use this word in state code, we are not simply asking for a word change," added Ms. Egle. "We are asking for dignity and the opportunity to live in a state where we are valued for the resources and talents we bring, not as a burden or second-class citizen."

To help communicate the importance of dignity and respect for people with intellectual disabilities, Will Schermerhorn of Blueberry Shoes Productions and members of The Arc of Northern Virginia have prepared a Public Service Announcement, which is available on The Arc of Virginia website at

For more information on where and when your local "Rally for Respect" will be held this week, contact your local chapter of The Arc or The Arc of Virginia state office. A listing of Virginia's local chapters can be found at