Breakfast TV’s John Campbell did a wonderful segment for World Down Syndrome Day interviewing Lily Harper and NZDSA National Executive Zandra Vaccarino.

Media release – World Down Syndrome Day highlights barriers to full inclusion

New Zealanders with Down syndrome continue to face unsurmountable barriers stopping them from being fully included in their community.
“The reality for people with Down syndrome in 2022, is that they still face daily battles to fully participate and contribute to society,” says Zandra Vaccarino, the National Executive of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA).
The global theme for this year’s World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), on March 21, is #Inclusion Means.
“The theme was chosen to make people consider and understand what full inclusion actually means,” says Vaccarino.
“Inclusion can mean a lot of different things for people with Down syndrome, but also for the people around them. What inclusion looks like should always be considered in the human rights framework and then one should explore how one can be inclusive in all aspects of life including employment, education, sport, arts, community participation and social events.”
Vaccarino says that by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, New Zealand has obligations to uphold the intent of the UNCRPD but this has not translated into full community participation, or the privileges and rights other Kiwi citizens may take for granted.
“Inclusion is not just having people with Down syndrome present in our schools, our streets or our malls. It means that we need to give them equitable access, so they have real access and support where needed to fully participate in all parts of our society,” says Vaccarino, who hopes that this year’s campaign will encourage New Zealanders to take stock and see how they can better include people with Down syndrome in their schools, work places, sports teams and social events.
This year, Covid 19 restrictions have again stopped Down syndrome groups around the country from hosting their usual WDSD celebrations, so the NZDSA has pulled together a mega-online community event, The Big Connect, which on Monday night will host a who’s-who from the disability sector.
The Big Connect will be opened by the Minister for Disability Issues, the Honourable Carmel Sepuloni, before she hands the stage to the President of Down Syndrome International, Bridget Snedden, and Paula Tesoriero, the Disability Rights Commissioner.
Snedden and Tesoriero will then be part of an intriguing panel of high-profile experts and advocates around human rights, education, employment, sports and arts to discuss the WDSD theme #Inclusion Means.
Vaccarino says that Covid restrictions last year forced the NZDSA to come up with the first Big Connect, which turned out to be a huge success.
“Last year, over 100 families from all over the country joined us and they were all really excited about being connected.
“People with disabilities are often more isolated than others during the pandemic, so we really hope that we get an even bigger turnout this year.”
“We are incredibly proud and grateful to host such an amazing group to share their ideas and experiences around inclusion and we hope the discussion will be an inspiration for people with Down syndrome and the wider community,” says Vaccarino.

For more information, contact Zandra Vaccarino on 021-1587150.

You do not want to miss New Zealand’s biggest Down syndrome video call on March 21.

The theme of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day, is “What does inclusion mean?” which we would also like to expand to” What do I want in the future?”.

This year the NZDSA is calling on you to tell us what inclusion means to you or what you want for your future.

We invite people with Down syndrome, their whānau, carers, support people and anyone else in our community to share with us your thoughts and aspirations — this could be by sending us a video, a written message, a photograph or even a drawing!

We will be sharing your stories on social media over the next three weeks and asking a few of you to speak at The Big Connect.

You can send the NZDSA messages on Facebook or email us at [email protected]

While our people are spread throughout all corners of Aotearoa and unable to connect in person, we believe The Big Connect will be a great way to celebrate our community and ensure we are all together to celebrate World Down syndrome Day.

The Big Connect is Back – Monday 21st March 2022 at 7pm

In 2021, the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association hosted the first BIG CONNECT, the country’s largest zoom call, to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. Join us on Monday the 21st March at 7pm for another star-studded zoom event as we explore Inclusion means# the 2022 theme for World Down Syndrome Day.

Topic:     Big Connect

Date:    21 March 2022

Time:    07:00 PM

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 861 9763 8020

Passcode: 988116

Other Online Events to Mark World Down Syndrome Day

Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder – A dual diagnosis. Thursday 24th March at 7pm 

This session will include the launch of a new digital resource “Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder”.  This digital resource is presented by Geraldine (Dina) Whatnell and she provides an overview, offers information, shares insights and demonstrates best practice when supporting people with Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This online session will also include a Q&A time with Geraldine.

Geraldine Whatnell is the Nurse Practitioner Mental Health and Addictions Service, Palmerston North Hospital. Geraldine brings with her nearly forty years of professional skills and knowledge in the specialist area of developmental disabilities (intellectual disabilities and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder) and mental health.

Topic: Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder – A dual diagnosis

Date:   24 March, 2022

Time: 07:00 PM Auckland, Wellington

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 861 9318 1571

Passcode: 034268

Members of the NZDSA are invited to relive the best parts of the Virtual Down Syndrome Conference we hosted in October to celebrate the NZDSA 40th anniversary.

During the conference over 700 individuals and households joined one or more of the 22 events and presentations.

The 34 speakers hosted a staggering 2748 minutes of webinars, Q&A sessions and social gatherings.

Usually, organisations would charge large amounts to be part of such a comprehensive event, but the NZDSA decided to make the conference accessible as possible.

If you or your family enjoyed the conference and gained benefit from the information shared, we would like to ask you to show your appreciation by donating to the NZDSA.

As you can imagine, hosting the conference demanded significant resources from or staff, and we hope you will continue to support the NZDSA to enable us to host more events in the future.

If you missed the conference, the NZDSA has recorded some of the key webinars which are now available to view on our website.

The resources you find on the website are:

The Golden Years: Ageing and Down syndrome

An introduction to the needs of the older person with Down syndrome and how this may affect their health and wellbeing alongside the supports they may need.

Relationships – Theories and Practicalities

This session deals with a variety of issues that face everyone trying to create new relationships, but may be particularly challenging for someone with Down syndrome.

Supported Decision Making – a Human Right

This workshop will help participants to gain a greater understanding of the national and international legal context of Supported Decision Making, who may require decision making support, and the key principles and strategies for extending decision making support

Making visions work

Social skill development for identity across the lifespan.

Early literacy skills for children with Down syndrome – Families making a difference

Fiona will share tips for whānau, based on the latest research, about how whānau can set their child up for literacy success.

Individual Education Plan – The capabilities approach

The capabilities approach to a structured plan to explain, recognise, and deliver on all learning opportunities to fulfill goals and achievement for children and young people with learning disability and Down syndrome.

 

Writer/director Linda Niccol is delighted to have her feature film Poppy selected for the 28th edition of Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January and regrets that COVID travel restrictions will prevent her from donning her snow-boots and attending in person.

Linda joins a range of illustrious Slamdance alumni who had early films selected by the festival including Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), Rian Johnson (Knives Out), Ari Aster (Midsommer), Lena Dunham (Girls), Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk).

Slamdance self describes as anti-algorithm. It’s a festival “by filmmakers for filmmakers” known for challenging the status quo, for discovering overlooked talent and unique voices.

Poppy was selected from the over 1500 feature films submitted this year. It will feature in the small Unstoppable selection.

Slamdance President and co-founder Peter Baxter identifies a focus this year on “storytellers who are changing the media narrative and elevating the art of independent film “. The Slamdance Unstoppable section is programmed by alumni with visible and non-visible disabilities – an initiative “aiming to eliminate prejudices and gate-keeping that have historically kept disabilities from being represented in the entertainment industry”.

Poppy is played by Libby Hunsdale. Her portrayal of a young woman with Down syndrome who takes control of her life in order to follow her dreams, has been singled out for praise – as has her onscreen chemistry with fellow performers Ari Boyland, Seb Hunter and Kali Kopae.

Poppy was filmed in Kāpiti in 2020 (before and after lockdown) and released in New Zealand cinemas this year where it enjoyed a 14-week release and a 4-week slot in the top 10 at the box office.

It is produced by Robin Laing and Alex Cole-Baker and funded by the New Zealand Film Commission’s 125 Fund (celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage in NZ), by TVNZ, NZonAir, IHC Foundation and private philanthropic funders.

Poppy has previously screened at three international film festivals – CinefestOz, Cinemagic Belfast, and LAFemme where it was a finalist for Best Feature.

 

 

 

Families and whānau of people with a disability have expressed relief, hope and opportunity at the announcement of Ministry for Disability last week.

“The Family Alliance is delighted that disabled people and whānau will guide the establishment of the Ministry,” says Zandra Vaccarino, speaking on behalf of the Family Alliance.

“We welcome that disabled people will have a key role in the Accessibility Governance Board, but want to highlight the crucial role of family and whānau as the strongest advocate for their family member, so it is essential that these allies have a voice on the Governance Board,” says Vaccarino from the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, one of the partners of the Family Alliance, alongside Care Matters,  Parent 2 Parent, Standards and Monitoring Services and other informal networks.

“The current system causes stress for many families and they have been calling for change for many years,” says Vaccarino.

“Families and whānau have advocated alongside disabled people for decades calling for an independent Ministry for Disabled People, so we welcome the announcement of the new Ministry for Disabled People, and this could address the inequalities and inaccessibility that disabled people continue to face in the current health and disability services,” says Vaccarino.

“It is also important to recognise that not all people with disabilities are able to advocate for themselves, so it is essential that the role of family and whānau advocates are recognised,” says Vaccarino.

 

People with learning disabilities, high and complex support needs and communication challenges are the most marginalised members of our community and Vaccarino says we all need to ensure that their allies who can communicate their needs are able to be part of the co-design process.

Tina Lincoln from Care Matters says that that families are ready and able to partner with disabled people, Māori, and the Crown to make this work.

“The Ministers have listened to our communities and understand the importance of working in partnership,” says Lincoln.

“We believe the new Ministry will create increased opportunities for families and whānau supporting their family members with disability to continue to embrace positive and creative way to work towards a good life.”

Lincoln says that last week’s announcement will hopefully be a move away from a deficit-based system and into a dedicated Ministry that empowers people with disabilities.

 

“In our vision an independent Ministry will have experience and knowledge and work together with disabled people, families, and whānau to enhance the lives of people with disability, which in turn can enhance the lives of the wider family and whānau,” says Lincoln.

She says that an independent Ministry will help ensure the ongoing ‘System Transformation’ will align with the Enabling Good Lives approach.

Enabling Good Lives (EGL) is a new approach to supporting disables people that offer greater choice and control over the supports they receive, so they can plan for the lives they want.

Disabled people and families have been working on the Enabling Good Lives approach for nearly a decade, starting in 2012.

Lincoln says there are multiple examples of where families in the demonstration sites describe the benefits of the Enabling Good Lives approach.

“The national Enabling Good Lives roll out will ensure equity regardless of where people live. Families are celebrating the opportunities to remove barriers and create solutions to live they can create.

“The Enabling Good Lives approach can be life-changing when the Enabling Good Lives principles and approach are applied and in the forefront of our thinking and how we do things.”

Lincoln explains that a key principle of Enabling Good Lives is to start early, and in the early years it is families and whānau that hold the vision for a good life.

 

“We congratulate Minister Sepuloni and Minister Little’s for their courage.”