I came across an article recently in a foreign newspaper which was so poorly written it really struck a nerve in me. I went back and forth with the idea as to whether the root of the issue was a poor attempt at translating a plagiarized article into English or if the writer was creating his own version that made more sense to him based on his personal bias. After several minutes of pondering and stewing over the writer's ignorance on the story I decided that what was really eating at me was that fact that he had a position/job that afforded him the freedom and a platform to write stories to a large audience but along with that position came the ability to promote ignorance or to educate readers. Had the later been his choice my article would have likely taken a different turn itself. However....heavy sigh.... what all too often happens in our world is we end up spending so much wasted time having to undo or try to undo damage caused by discrimination, inequality, ignorance and the fear of the unknown.
This particular writer had the platform to inform his readers about the work of one particular young lady. She has taken many parts of the world by storm with her high profile career and made it her personal mission to raise awareness and inclusion for those with disabilities. This young lady happens to also have Down syndrome and knows all too well the work needed to be successful. The milestones that she has accomplished have been hard earned through her determination, sweat but most of all a strong desire to live her dream. Her own goals were not just to live out her dream but to show others what can be accomplished and help all those who struggle in a world still full of prejudice....a world where the disabled constantly face being written off, literally (such as my subject writer has done) and figuratively by fitting them neatly into little boxes labeled 'less valuable members of society' due to a physical or mental disability. The writer didn't take the opportunity to showcase this young lady's achievements as other large magazines had done and perhaps enlighten some of his readers on what someone with Down syndrome can achieve, despite all the obstacles and road blocks set up. He instead wrote a story that was offensive and insulting and did an injustice to the work and accomplishments of this young lady but worst of all to the message she was trying to send. A message of empowerment, one that is achieved by someone with a disability when they have broken through a barrier that the 'abled' have erected. To me it felt as though her achievement and message was lost to those readers of his niche of the world and they would be none the wiser. But nevertheless that mother, father, brother, sister reading the story lost an opportunity to see empowerment, progress and the human spirit which is far more valuable for development than lies and ideas we have lived with our whole lives and desperately need updating and refreshing.
I know to some it may seem silly to take offense to a 'writing injustice' in another part of the world but I see it as a part of an ongoing exhaustive societal issue. It's the stares in stores and the air of superiority when seeing a person assessing someone disabled, I think to myself how a person's disability itself is often not even the hardest obstacle they face overcoming it is the ignorance of others that are consciously or subconsciously perpetuating an ongoing value ranking system.
My hope for Down Syndrome Awareness Day March 21 would be the elimination of 'suffer' when referring to Down syndrome such as 'he suffers from Down syndrome'. Most people with Down syndrome are living full happy healthy lives without pain unless they get seriously ill or hurt but having Down syndrome itself is not a life of suffering. Another term would be referring a person with Down syndrome as that Downs (kid, girl, boy) instead of the person's name. I don't think anyone would like being referred to by a syndrome, disease or condition they have.
The future could be really bright for those with Down syndrome. We are making great strides in medical research and encourage and appreciate your financial support. If you wish to learn more about Down syndrome or what we do please come check out our web site http://www.dsrf-uk.org/ and see our past and current studies. As Ray Krok so eloquently put it "None of us is as good as all of us". May we all speak a language of inclusion and diversity.