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Down syndrome community calls for inclusion on WDS day

The global theme for this year’s World Down Syndrome Day, Leave No One Behind, will undoubtedly strike a chord in New Zealand.

On March 21, the New Zealand and global Down syndrome community celebrate the contributions people with Down syndrome make to their societies and to raise awareness about the hurdles they face to have a full and good life.

“People with Down syndrome want the same rights to get access to education, employment, healthcare, information, community participation and want to build a good life that may include a partner, but too often they are actively or passively discriminated against and left behind,” says Zandra Vaccarino from the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZSDA).

The NZDSA National Executive Officer says that this year’s international theme Leave No One Behind will resonate particularly in this country.

“New Zealanders are currently reflecting on how our society can be more inclusive to minority groups and that is not just about ethnicities, but any marginalised groups, like people with Down syndrome or other disabilities,” says Mrs Vaccarino.

All over New Zealand this week, local groups and their communities are celebrating World Down syndrome day at their schools, workplace and with special events like the Buddy Walk in Auckland last weekend.

Many schools with students with Down syndrome are using WDSD to raise awareness and to talk about Down syndrome to their students.

One way to symbolise that we are all different, yet all the same, is that both students and adults are encouraged to wear two different coloured socks, Odd Socks, for the day.

Compared to many other countries, New Zealand could be viewed as providing more support and uphold the rights with people with Down syndrome, says Mrs Vaccarino, but so much more can be done to truly give them the ability to be valued and productive members of our community.
“Expectations and opportunities for people with Down syndrome are changing rapidly in our society and people with Down syndrome these days are living lives that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago,” says Mrs Vaccarino.

People with Down syndrome now finish high school, go to polytech, hold down jobs and can live independently and “get married, like my son a few weeks ago.”

“Leaving No One Behind is about making more effort to be more inclusive as a society to ensure that people with Down syndrome get the same opportunities as other young people to fully develop their potential,” says Mrs Vaccarino.

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