New York – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet discrimination against persons with Down syndrome and their families exists on many levels. This hurts not only individuals who are directly affected, but whole societies.
Persons with Down syndrome often face stigma and segregation, physical and psychological abuse, and lack of equal opportunities. A vicious circle of exclusion can begin early in life as many children with Down syndrome are denied access to mainstream education – or any education at all.
In working life, stereotypes against persons with Down syndrome often mean they are denied vocational training opportunities and their right to work. In the political and public sphere, persons with Down syndrome and other persons with intellectual disabilities are often deprived of their right to vote and fully participate in the democratic process.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reaffirms that such persons, including those with Down syndrome, are entitled to human rights on an equal basis with others. On 23 September, the General Assembly will convene a High-level Meeting on Disability and Development to ensure that the perspectives of persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are included in all future development plans.
Given the appropriate support and opportunity, all individuals living with Down syndrome can achieve their potential, realise their human rights on an equal basis with others and make an important contribution to society. We must therefore intensify our efforts to create conditions of empowerment that allow meaningful participation of persons with Down syndrome. Working together, we can help build an equitable, just and inclusive world that celebrates diversity, is free of discrimination and provides equal opportunities for all.