“Not everyone finds it easy to speak up, but that is no reason for people with Down Syndrome to be ignored.”
Imagine being in a room full of people, but with no-one willing to listen to you. You try to talk, but all you get is deafening silence. Sounds difficult, doesn’t it?
For people with Down Syndrome, their opinions are often either ignored or not taken seriously; this explains why the theme of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day (21 March 2017) is so important. ‘My Voice, My Community’ aims to enable people with the condition to speak up, be heard and influence policy.
People might be under the misconception that people with Down Syndrome cannot achieve normal life goals. However, with the right support, they can lead fulfilling, active lives, just the same as everyone else.
What is important is they are heard. We must not only listen but also give them a chance.
Emeric: “We’re all different and like different things”Emeric may have Down Syndrome, but he has the same dreams and aspirations as any other 30-year-old. He hopes for a girlfriend, friends he can trust and a paid job in the care home where he currently volunteers. A strong swimmer and fluent in French, Emeric also disproves the myth that people with Down Syndrome cannot achieve as much as people without the condition:
“We are not all the same. We are all different and like different things. People think we can’t learn things. It might take a bit longer for me, but I can learn new jobs and skills.”
Emeric volunteers at Down2Earth, a social group for adults in London who have Down Syndrome. Run by the Down’s Syndrome Association, the group provides people with the condition with the opportunity to express their views and opinions on issues that matter to them.
For the Down’s Syndrome Association itself, the importance of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day is clear:
“My Voice, My Community is about enabling people with Down Syndrome of all ages and abilities to express themselves, and more importantly to be heard, so that others understand their needs, thoughts and opinions…not everyone finds it easy to speak up, but that is no reason for people with Down Syndrome to be ignored.”
This World Down Syndrome Day, the United Nations will be holding its annual conference to raise awareness and improve understanding of the condition. You can watch the event itself via UN Web TV.
From getting a job to being judged, people with Down Syndrome have to constantly strive to make a mark. But people can help – by getting to know them and giving them a voice, but more importantly by making them an equal part of the community.
You can #ListenToMe by watching people with Down Syndrome tell their stories. To find out more about the Down’s Syndrome Association, visit their website, follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.