This year’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, held throughout October aims to educate the community and share the stories of the abilities and accomplishments of people living with Down syndrome.
Down Syndrome Australia Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ellen Skladzien says the month is an opportunity to challenge misconceptions about Down syndrome in the wider community.
“People with Down syndrome have the same rights as anyone else to be included in school, in employment and in the broader community. Unfortunately, there are often unnecessary barriers that stand in their way.”
According to Down Syndrome Australia, over 13,000 people are living with the genetic disorder across the nation, with many doing extraordinary things within their local communities.
These stories include Sarah, 24, the first female ambassador for the Count Me In program who promotes employment for people with disabilities, and Sui, 25, who came second in the world at the 1st International Federation for Athletes with an Intellectual Disability Video Dressage Competition.
Achievements, such as these, will be a significant part of the celebrations throughout the month.
October will also see events and campaigns held across the country to raise much needed funds for local and national services.
“Down Syndrome Australia will roll-out a social media campaign to do more than just raise awareness of Down syndrome - this month we will give people some tools to make a real difference in the way people with Down syndrome are included in community activities,” says Dr. Skladzien.
These tools are part of their newly developed Community Inclusion Toolkit, which includes resources such as fact sheets, videos and posters to help raise awareness and educate people with Down syndrome and their families, community group leaders, health professionals, employers and teachers on the topics of employment, education, health and community participation.
Down syndrome organisations in each state and territory will also hold the annual fundraising event, Step UP!; a walk-a-thon held throughout October, to bring people together to celebrate inclusion and diversity within their communities.
Sue O’Riley, Executive Officer of Down Syndrome Victoria, says the event is a wonderful way to unite those with Down syndrome and their families in Australia.
“It also raises the profile of Down syndrome nationally and focuses on celebrating those with Down syndrome whilst making people and the community aware of their abilities and accomplishments.”
“We continue to advocate for full inclusion for those with Down syndrome in all areas [but] there is still work to do,” she adds.
Down Syndrome Australia encourages people to check out their state and territory Down syndrome association for information about local events happening throughout the month.
For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au