Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog from Mary Davis, President & Managing Director for Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia
It is with pride and joy that we celebrate World Down syndrome Day in the Special Olympics family. Today is the 9th anniversary of this important day which is an opportunity for the eyes of the world to be opened and focus on the talents and abilities of people with Down syndrome. Like any other population, they have an array of skills and a broad spectrum of gifts and talents. On and off the sports field Special Olympics proudly celebrates the gifts of people with Down syndrome. Every day we speak of their talents and skills; achievements and abilities. Today we do so louder and prouder!
World Down syndrome day is also an important opportunity to highlight the needs of this population – a population that has for too long been discriminated against and ignored. That great political expression of the rights of man and the duty of States to protect those rights culminated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 yet today, more than sixty years on, a diagnosis of Down syndrome in some parts of the world is perceived as a curse, a burden or a tragedy. Too often citizens with Down syndrome are denied access to basic health care, to education, to employment and to human rights. Too often this injustice breeds intolerance, and too often this intolerance breeds shame. This is a pattern that must end. Today is a timely opportunity for the world to remember and live by the core tenants of that first Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Through my work in Special Olympics I see how a person with Down syndrome is a gift to a family and their community – a source of joy, pride and fulfillment. Their enthusiasm for life is infectious and unique and from the shadows of long-lasting pain and discrimination, I am proud to see how many Special Olympics athletes with Down syndrome across the world are now finding their voices and advocating for justice in their own communities and countries. Join me in celebrating the skills, talents and abilities of this population today.