Endorsed by the United Nations, the 21st of March is World Down Syndrome Day. Over the last 50 years, we have learnt so much about Down Syndrome – and we continue to learn more everyday. Here at Allowah, we know that people with disabilities such as Down Syndrome can live full and wonderful lives and so we join the United Nations in celebrating World Down Syndrome Day. The day both recognises the ability and value of those who live with Down Syndrome and aims to boost education on the issue.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome is a genetic condition in which an individual has an extra chromosome. Most people have 46 chromosomes, people with Down Syndrome have an additional chromosome 21. The condition occurs at conception and is present across every demographic. People with Down Syndrome have been recorded all through history and it is only in the past few decades which we have begun to understand more about what this condition is and just how much those who have it are capable of (a lot!). In Australia, the population of those with Down Syndrome is around 13,000.
We love this description of the condition by Down Syndrome Australia: “People with Down syndrome have: some characteristic physical features, some health and development challenges and some level of intellectual disability. Because no two people are alike, each of these things will vary from one person to another.”
Down Syndrome can look very different person to person. Some people will need much higher levels of support than others. In every case, we believe that people with Down Syndrome are just as inherently valuable as anyone else and deserve to live life to its fullest. As disability advocates, we here at Allowah are passionate about seeing Down Syndrome better understood and accepted by society.
One of the most important things our community can do for people with Down Syndrome is to defend and value their inclusion in society. From education and work to politics and public recreation – people with Down Syndrome should be part of every element of our community.
The biggest barrier to inclusion is a lack of understanding on the public’s behalf. World Down Syndrome Day aims to raise awareness of the issue and help people better understand what life is like for those with Down Syndrome. On the whole, life isn’t all that different! People with Down Syndrome still have the same aspirations and fears as others do. They still have the same joys and worries. They still enjoy good food, good friends and the great outdoors!
They may have some intellectual and physical complications which make enjoying these things more complicated and those issues are important to understand too. Is your house or local store easy for someone in a wheel chair to gain access to? Is your business a safe place to employ someone with intellectual challenges?
One of the easiest ways you can love those around you who have Down Syndrome is to change the way you speak. Down Syndrome Australia suggests not using terms such as ‘sufferer’ when referring to someone who has Down Syndrome. Be careful to remember that Down Syndrome is not an illness – it is just a part of someone’s life. The person has Down Syndrome, but it does not define them!
Down Syndrome is the among the most common forms of disability in Australia. Just like everyone else, people with Down Syndrome lead varied lives. They are able and willing to participate in our society and should be embraced without hesitation! Here at Allowah, we love the diversity of humankind and that includes people with Down Syndrome. So, with that – Happy World Down Syndrome Day! There is still so much work to be done in this area, let’s do it together.