SANTA ROSA - For Larkin O’Leary, her son James has always been an inspiration. He is charming and sweet and an absolute heartbreaker and when it comes to standing up to anyone or any company who says otherwise, O’Leary doesn't back down.
Now after finding offensive merchandise found on online retailers like Amazon, she says more should be done to keep the merchandise off online sites
“I think we need to be louder,” O’Leary says, “I think it needs to be something that we don't rest until people really truly understand how really truly hurtful these words and actions are, we aren't as loud as we need to be.”
O’Leary is a mother and a teacher who travels to schools to spread awareness, and she has started a nonprofit called Common Ground to teach people about creating a more inclusive community. Her son James has down syndrome and she has blogged about her family’s journey.
Recently she became aware of offensive merchandise on Amazon. “I just typed in down syndrome awareness and those shirts came up as awareness as warrior shirts and supports shirts, let’s make down syndrome extinct.”
O’Leary says she did what she could, she contacted Amazon. She asked others to do the same.
She had several online chat sessions and says she was told “All I kept getting was don't worry we'll take care of it but as you saw no response to it.”
So she contacted KTVU. We found similar items on Amazon, Etsy, and on online retailers Teechip and Teepublic
We also found reports of mothers in England trying to take down that same merchandise last March and last month and still the problem continues.
KTVU's Claudine Wong reached out to Amazon and Etsy media contacts multiple times and got no response, However Teepublic did respond with this statement: “TeePublic is a global marketplace for user-generated content and we have a dedicated team charged with proactively reviewing uploaded designs and removing content that does not meet our standards and terms. We also have reporting functions in place should community members discover potentially problematic works. Due to the sheer volume of designs uploaded each day, we do not review every single design, but as soon as we are made aware of inappropriate content it is reviewed and removed if it does meet our community guidelines. This generally happens within 48 hours. Ensuring that our community guidelines are enforced is critical to our ecosystem, and we find that our systems and processes work to keep designs that violate our guidelines from flourishing on the site. We are grateful to our community for their help in keeping our artist marketplace inclusive.”
O’Leary says she shouldn’t have to monitor their site saying “you don't understand the heartbreak it brings because it's a part of who they are it’s not something that they were given a choice to have down syndrome or not and it’s a wonderful part of who they are it doesn't make them any less worthy and I think perpetuating that kind of stereotype with these kinds of shirts it’s just wrong.
When we checked later the items on Teepublic’s and Amazon pages were removed but we also found them on other sites. And the problem of them reappearing doesn't seem to have an easy solution.
A frustrating problem for a mother who just wants to create a more inclusive world for her son.