On World Down Syndrome Day, 21 March, people with Down syndrome and their supporters are advocating for inclusion across the community.
The date of World Down Syndrome Day - the 21st day of the third month - was chosen by the United Nations as a representation of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
Down Syndrome Australia’s ACT Employment Ambassador, Charlotte Bailey, says World Down Syndrome Day is important because it is a celebration of people living with Down syndrome.
“It is a special day for people with Down syndrome, and it is also for family and friends and community to recognise achievements of people with Down syndrome,” she says.
As well as being an Employment Ambassador, the 21-year-old from Canberra works with the ACT Down Syndrome Association as an office assistant and also works shifts at the Eastlakes Football Club’s bistro.
She says she loves her jobs, meeting new people, helping customers, learning new skills and being part of a team, and she wants Australia to have more employment opportunities for people with disability.
Ms Bailey will be celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by sharing her story and all her achievements with the community as part of the international awareness campaign, which this year has the theme ‘Inclusion means’.
To Ms Bailey, inclusion means having every person included in a team, activity, sport or other setting and “making sure that no one feels left out”.
Her message to other people with Down syndrome is, “Be confident, don’t be afraid to try new things or meet new people, don’t be afraid to speak up for what you want because you are important too.”
For people without Down syndrome, Ms Bailey wants them to know that she loves her life “exactly the way it is”.
“I love learning and achieving my goals,” says Ms Bailey.
“People with Down syndrome are important people too and want to live just like everyone else and they want jobs just like everyone else so they can enjoy life like everyone else.
“On World Down Syndrome Day all people should celebrate how awesome people with Down syndrome are.
“They should take time to listen to our stories and understand we want all the same things that they do in life - a job, money, independence, family and love.”
Down Syndrome Australia has launched a photography exhibition today, which Ms Bailey is part of, called Right to Work.
The exhibition features Canberra residents with Down syndrome who are working in open employment and aims to show the community the benefits of employing people with Down syndrome.
Dr Ellen Skladzien, Down Syndrome Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO), explains that awareness is important because people with Down syndrome face multiple barriers to working in open employment, even though they can be valuable employees.
“People with Down syndrome want to work for the same reasons as everyone else – so that they can be independent, contribute to society, earn their own money, learn new skills, meet new people, and feel valued,” Dr Skladzien says.
“Through the Right to Work exhibition, the people featured show how open employment can benefit everyone from the employee to the wider organisation.”
For more information about the exhibition and the broader Right to Work campaign which it is part of, visit the campaign’s website.