That is the message people with Down syndrome want New Zealanders to hear loud and clear.
Far too often people with Down syndrome have their decisions made for them, even when they are very capable of making their own choices.
In many cases they are not consulted over the hundreds of small decisions made each day or even the big, life-changing decisions.
“Those decisions make us who we are, but the reality for many people with Down syndrome is that other people are making small as well as significant decisions for them,” Zandra Vaccarino, National Executive Officer of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA).
Imagine if someone decided when you get up, what you eat, where you go to school, what you do with your money, who your friends are and even the romances you have. For most of us that would be impossible to imagine but for many people with Down syndrome this is their daily reality.
“Often with best intentions these decisions are made by others, but this year we want to remind all of New Zealand to support people with Down syndrome to make their own decisions,” says Vaccarino.
Saturday, March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) and the NZDSA has launched a special #WeDecide video message from its own members to explain how important it is to make their own choices.
In the clip, Lily talks about becoming an actress, Rachel and Vincenzo talk about getting married, Abigail talks about her career in media while Alec and Jessica proudly explain how they bought a house.
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero highlights that 34.9 per cent of people with Down syndrome are not in education, training or employment and asks New Zealanders to consider how their actions can help change those statistics.
“A child deserves the right to decide what a good life looks like, just like all of us,” says the commissioner.
The #WeDecide video is one of thousands of initiatives and special events around New Zealand and around the world to raise awareness for Down syndrome and to promote the global “We Decide” message.
In New Zealand, local groups have organised gatherings in their own community, but unfortunately some had to be cancelled because of Covid-19.
Hundreds of schools around the country have also embraced the “Odd Socks” campaign in which students wear non-matching socks to demonstrate that we are all different and to fundraise for their local Down syndrome community.
“These events are growing every year and this shows there is an increasing involvement by local schools and communities,” says Vaccarino.
“And of course, World Down Syndrome Day is a special day for our families and whānau to get together, connect and celebrate the amazing feats our people with Down syndrome have achieved.”
You can download the video here