Who do you see? World Down’s Syndrome Day 2016

24th March 2016
Strength lies in differences not in similarities

A video has been doing the rounds on social media that shows a woman loving life – enjoying being a sister, a daughter, a friend. Achieving her dreams, challenging herself and learning new skills.

It’s a video that demonstrates hope and love in life.  Narrated all the way through, it isn’t until the end that you see the girl whose voice you hear throughout.  You see her face the camera and ask ‘who do you see?’.

She challenges the viewer because so many may see her and not see a confident, happy and fulfilled young woman. They might not notice the smiles, the hope and the laughter. They might not think about her following her dreams or being a sister, a daughter and a friend.

They might just see one thing and allow it to breed misconceptions, stereotypes and assumptions.

The young girl has Down’s Syndrome.

Of course she can, is and will be all of those things she spoke about in the video.  There is no reason why she can’t run after her dreams, fall in love, grow up happy and fulfilled.

So why do so many look at her and assume that’s not the life she leads? We limit others through  our own stereotypes and misgivings. That just isn’t ok.

Don’t we normally scoff when we find out someone is judged on the way they look? Don’t we shout about sexism or racism? If so, why do we allow so many other preconceptions to creep in the sides of our rose-tinted view of the world?

This week is World Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week. It’s a time to celebrate those we know who have an extra copy of the 21st Chromosome.  A time to celebrate diversity. To encourage inclusion. To dispel myths and to educate.

We’ve seen the world light up yellow and blue this week in support of World Down’s Syndrome Day which was on the Monday (the 21st March…or 21/3 representing the 21st chromosome in triplicate).  Even our own Spinnaker Tower joined in with the yellow and blue theme.

World Down's Syndrome Day 2016

It’s fantastic that discussions have been started, conversations had and column inches given over to bring more awareness around the topic.

But let’s not stop there; awareness doesn’t bring equality and inclusion by itself.  We need more education around what DS is for our healthcare professionals. We need to make sure expectant parents are shown the whole picture and not just the negative when they are considering testing for Down’s. We need to continue to lobby for inclusion in mainstream education something which could come under threat if all schools become privately run academies.  We need to not stop putting pressure on the government to better support independent living and inclusive employment opportunities.

And of course, we need to stop underestimating what someone can achieve because of what they look like.


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