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.