Raise awareness on World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st celebrates World Down Syndrome Day. During this past year it has been great to see an increase in the number of positive images of people with Down syndrome in the media.

We had baby Bethany born in BBC Radio 4’s the Archers; a number of children who have appeared in mainstream clothing adverts, including gorgeous little Seb who was in the Marks and Spencer Christmas television advert; the dance group (Dance Company) who reached the semi-finals of Sky’s ‘Got to dance’; a young lady who appeared in the Channel 4 programme ‘The Undateables’ and well known blogger Hayley Goleniowska of ‘Downs Side Up’ who is spreading the word about the joys of having a child with Down syndrome.

They among many others are breaking down barriers to demonstrate that people with Down syndrome are just like the rest of us.

My colleague Hanifa has Down syndrome and she sees herself as a young woman who juggles a busy job and a good circle of friends with the needs of her family. She commutes daily into our London office, using a bus and two trains but never complains. She loves her job as she says “It keeps me busy, makes me feel important, I earn money which means I can contribute to the family household bills and holidays and work keeps me healthy as I am on the go all the time”.

Hanifa has worked with us on a project called ‘What kind of a future,’ which looked at what enables young people to lead full and active lives after full-time education. We also conducted a series of workshops with young people and their families where Hanifa shared her experiences of entering into employment and learning to use public transport. Through Hanifa and the young people’s combined learning, we developed a workbook with practical ideas on how to plan for life after school and college.

We are just taking the first steps on a long journey to portraying a more positive image of people with Down syndrome and clearly a lot more needs to be done until the same opportunities in life are available to people with learning disabilities.

We are continuing our work to raise awareness of learning disability issues among the wider public in order to breakdown stigma and discrimination – please help support our goal by supporting World Down Syndrome Day.