Why inclusion matters this World Down Syndrome Day

Portrait of beautiful young girl smiling

This year marks 10 years since World Down Syndrome Day was declared by the UN General Assembly to recognise the achievements and abilities of people with Down syndrome. For the estimated 15,000 people with Down syndrome living in Australia and their allies, it’s a day to connect, share stories, and advocate for equal opportunity and positive change.

A key focus of World Down Syndrome Day this year is inclusion. The global campaign, which asks “What does inclusion mean?”, is challenging people to think about how to help more people with Down syndrome to benefit from full and effective participation and inclusion in society.

Before we explore ways that everyone can get involved on 21 March 2022, let’s take a quick look at why this date was chosen and why it’s important.

Why 21 March?

The number 21 is a special one for people with Down syndrome. The genetic condition, which is sometimes called trisomy 21, is caused by one extra chromosome in the human cell.

While most people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell (so, 46 altogether), people with Down syndrome have one extra chromosome in the 21st pair (so, 47 altogether). So, chromosome 21 is special for those with Down syndrome – instead of a pair, it’s a triplet.

So, the 21st day represents the extra chromosome; and the third month represents the triplet.

Why does it matter?

People with Down syndrome have individual strengths, and other areas where they may need more support, just like all of us. 

Thanks to advances in medical diagnosis and treatment, and changing social attitudes, most people with Down syndrome today enjoy a long and healthy life. This wasn’t always the case. As recently as the 1950s, life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was as low as 15 years and many children were taken from their families to live in institutions.

Despite the huge improvements for people with Down syndrome, there’s always more we can do to be more inclusive to people with disabilities. It’s why ongoing advocacy and campaigns like World Down Syndrome Day are so important – together, we can help people with Down syndrome live longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives.

How you can get involved

A great way to show your support on World Down Syndrome Day is to take some time to educate yourself on things you or your organisation can do to create a more inclusive future for people with Down syndrome.

Down Syndrome Australia has some terrific Community Inclusion Toolkits that help support the inclusion of people with Down syndrome in the community – in education, employment, health settings and community and sporting groups. They’re a great way to find out how your community group can offer and support opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

The Ask About Down Syndrome App is another fantastic resource. On the app, people with Down syndrome answer important questions and share stories about what inclusion means to them; and they also explain the barriers they face and how to tackle them. As an interactive app, you can submit your own questions, answers or stories.

Down Syndrome International is another great resource for general information about the condition, as well as deep dives into how we can all help create more inclusive environments in education, healthcare and employment.

Pull up your socks

Show your support for World Down Syndrome Day 2022 by purchasing a beautiful pair of socks designed by Mark Polonsky and Josie McAndrew, Australian artists with Down syndrome. Lots of Socks represents inclusion, diversity and acceptance – their socks come in all shapes, sizes and colours, just like us – and helps raise funds for the Down syndrome community.

You can also show your support on social media with the hashtag #InclusionMeans – on 21 March 2022, jump onto your favourite social channel and share what inclusion means to you.

From all of us at Scope, we wish you a very happy World Down Syndrome Day.