Last week, on 21 March, the world celebrated World Down Syndrome Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about Down syndrome and promoting the rights and well-being of individuals with Down syndrome. First celebrated in 2006, 21 March was selected as it was the 21st day of the third month of the year which signifies the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when an individual has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, resulting in intellectual and developmental challenges. Down syndrome affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities, and it is estimated that over 250 million people are living with this condition worldwide. Chromosomes are “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms and functions as it grows. Around 1 in every 800 babies will be born with Down syndrome which occurs naturally as there is no known cause. Down syndrome usually causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues. Despite this, many people are still misinformed about Down syndrome and individuals with the syndrome often face discrimination and stigma. World Down Syndrome Day provides an opportunity to educate the public and promote a better understanding of Down syndrome, and celebrate the unique contributions and achievements of individuals with Down syndrome.
One of the main goals of World Down Syndrome Day is to raise awareness about the rights and needs of individuals with Down syndrome. This includes ensuring that individuals with Down syndrome have access to the same opportunities and services as their peers, including education, employment, healthcare, and independent living. It is important to recognise that individuals with Down syndrome have the same aspirations and dreams as everyone else, and it is our responsibility as a society to provide them with the support and resources they need to achieve their full potential. This day also celebrates the accomplishments and achievements of individuals with Down syndrome. The day showcases the talents and abilities of individuals with Down syndrome and highlights the contributions they make to their communities.
The theme for the 2023 edition of World Down Syndrome Day is “With Us Not For Us”. The message of With Us Not For Us is key to a human rights-based approach to disability. It is based on moving away from the outdated charity model of disability, where people with disability were treated as objects of charity, deserving of pity and relying on others for support to a human rights-based approach that views people with disabilities as having the right to be treated fairly and having the same opportunities as everyone else, working With others to improve their lives.
World Down Syndrome Day is a day to celebrate the diversity of individuals with Down syndrome and to remind us all that we are all more alike than we are different. In addition to raising awareness and celebrating the accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome, World Down Syndrome Day is also an opportunity to advocate for change. This includes advocating for policies and practices that support the rights and needs of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as working to remove barriers and promote inclusion in all areas of life. A common activity on this day is to wear colourful or mismatched socks, to show support for people with Down syndrome because socks are shaped somewhat like chromosomes. An animated short, Freebird, was created to recognize World Down Syndrome Day in 2021. The film, set to a song, Freedom by Jordan Hart, won the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival the same year.
World Down Syndrome Day is a day to raise awareness, celebrate the accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome, and advocate for change. It is a day to recognise the unique contributions and strengths of individuals with Down syndrome and to remind us all that with the right support and opportunities, anything is possible. On this day, let us all come together to celebrate the diversity of individuals with Down syndrome and to work towards a world that is more inclusive, supportive, and empowering for everyone.