Amazon is under-fire from Down’s syndrome and learning-disability groups for selling offensive products that incite hate speech against those with a disability.
It comes after the discovery that Amazon was selling t-shirts bearing hateful slogans, such as “Let’s make Down syndrome extinct!” and “F*ck Down syndrome”, for the second time this year.
Now, over forty groups have signed an open letter calling on the online retailer to take steps to do more to tighten up their policies and permanently end the sale of hateful products on their platform.
The letter, signed by groups including the Down’s Syndrome Association, Mencap, and Positive About Down’s Syndrome, urges Amazon to work with them in “helping the Down’s syndrome community stand against hate crime.”
Tens of thousands of people supporting disability community
A petition organised by the founder of one of the letter’s signatories, Diff-Ability Cumbrian Community group asking Amazon to ban any sellers who “incite hate speech against any minorities” has already been signed by over 64,000 people.
Cristina feared seeing such hateful slogans would have a similar effect on her three-year-old son, Max, who has the condition.
She said: “We’re fighting hard to get positive balanced information out there because so many children are aborted when their parents find out they have Down’s syndrome.
“Max does not have any serious health problems, he’s the loveliest boy. But we were so scared before he was born because we believed outdated stereotypes.”
Since then, the petition has received the attention of national media with coverage on TV, radio and in newspapers.
Heidi Carter, a prolific disability activist who is challenging the UK’s abortion law, revealed to BBC News how upsetting it was for her when she first saw the offensive clothing, saying: “I would say that I feel very offended and very upset, and when I first found out, I was nearly crying my eyes out.”
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Lynn Murray of Don’t Screen Us Out, one of the letter’s signatories, said: “Our supporters, people with Down’s syndrome and their families, have been offended by the ongoing availability of t-shirts calling for people with Down’s syndrome effectively to be screened-out of society.
“Nevertheless, we’ve been blown away by the support from the public and the media.
“My own daughter Rachel calls these t-shirts ‘nasty’.
“We understand that not everyone realises that people with Down’s syndrome and their families are happy with their lives. This community is trying to shake off an old stereotype that Down’s syndrome screening programmes have failed to tackle.
“If Amazon were to change their discrimination policy to include protection for people with disabilities this would go some way to help improve the profile of this minority group. We are also calling on Amazon to make a guarantee to our community that they will ensure that they will never sell any product in the future that discriminates against our community.”
Actress Sally Phillips, whose oldest child, Olly, has Down’s syndrome criticised Amazon for selling “hatewear” t-shirts, telling The Times: “Eugenic ideas are really taking hold — the idea that there is this subclass of humans and it is better we get rid of them. If you have a world view in which you regard academic intelligence or money-making possibilities as the ultimate goal… then you feel perfectly justified in saying these things.”She added: “It would break my heart if Olly saw anyone wearing those T-shirts.”