This year’s World Down Syndrome Day falls as the international community is striving to create a universal, transformative agenda for sustainable development. The links between disability, human rights and development span a wide spectrum of development issues relating to economic, social and environmental factors. Every year on this observance, we reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights. This year, we must make every effort to ensure that the new sustainable development goals address equality and help build a life of dignity for all, including people with Down syndrome and other persons with disabilities.
Persons with Down syndrome face stigmatization, abuse and lack of support. Too often, their challenges begin early in life when they are excluded from quality education systems. Adequate access to health care, early intervention programmes and inclusive education, as well as appropriate research, are vital to the growth and development of individuals with Down syndrome.
The role of families is central to supporting persons with Down syndrome by promoting their equal status in society and empowering them to be their own advocates. At the same time, we must recognize our collective responsibility to create conditions for all persons with disabilities to make valuable contributions to our shared future. We must promote inclusive policies and raise awareness about social justice for people with Down syndrome, and do everything possible to enable them to live where they want and with whom, to form their own families, to administer their own assets and to pursue their own happiness.
I applaud all those who champion the rights and lives of persons with disabilities, and I urge others to support them. Let us use this World Down Syndrome Day to advocate for a more socially just and inclusive world.
How people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.
Our focus is ‘My Opportunities, My Choices’ – Enjoying Full and Equal Rights and the Role of Families in 2015
‘My Opportunities, My Choices’ (Information Leaflet) - Down Syndrome International
My Opportunities, My Choices,– Enjoying Full and Equal Rights and the Role of Families People with Down syndrome, on an equal basis with other people, must be able to enjoy full and equal rights,both as children and adults with ‘opportunities’ and‘choices’.
People with Down syndrome face many challenges as children and adults which can include:
° being abandoned, subjected to abuse and segregated from their communities;
° being discriminated against and treated unequally in education s ystems;
° being discriminated against and having health conditions misdiagnosed by health systems;
°limited opportunities to live independently, work and be fullyincluded in the community;
° a lack of control over the right to marry and have relationships and families;
°limited opportunities to vote, participate in public advocacy or be elected to public office.
These challenges prevent many people with Down syndrome from enjoying their basic human rights. Those directly or indirectly responsible for this may be families, education, health and social professionals, authorities or the general public and the primary reason for this is a failure to understand that people with Down syndrome are people first, who mayrequireadditional support, butshould be recognised by society on an equal basis with others, without discrimination on the basis of disability.
Preamble (X) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) confirms that “persons with disabilities and their family members should receive the necessary protection and
assistance to enable families to contribute towards the full and equal enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.”
In order for people with Down syndrome to enjoy full and equal rights, their families, who have a deep personal interest in their well-being, must be informed and empowered to promote the equal status of their family members in society, so that they can provide support, advocate foropportunities and choices in all aspects of life and crucially so that they can empower people with Down syndrome to express their own views freely on all matters affecting them and make their own decisions, as well as advocate for themselves. Society can assist families to support children wi th Down syndrome to be protected from harm, to be heard, to have access to education and healthcare and to be fully included in their communities, with opportunities to participate, on an equal basis with others.
Adults with Down syndrome, on an equal basis with others, must have choices, be able to make decisions and have control in their lives. Society can assist families to ensure that people with Down syndrome have access to support they may require in exercising their legal capacity, to empower them to lead independent lives and be accepted and included as valued, equal and participating members of their communities.
On 21 March 2015, the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day and in the‘21’st anniversary year of the‘International Year of the Family, Down Syndrome International will focus on the role of families and the positive contribution that they can make towards the enjoyment of full and equal rights for people with Down syndrome.