President of Little People of the Caribbean and Advocate for Persons Living with Disabilities World Down Syndrome Day 2023 Statement

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President and Founder of Little People of the Caribbean (LPC), Youth and Persons Living with Disabilities Advocate Juante' Kirby
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On this day, people all around the world celebrate the lives and achievements of people with Down syndrome. March 21st provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the rights and inclusion of people with Down syndrome around the world. 

But I think we have a lot of work to do as a Nation and I think this year’s highlight for World Down Syndrome Day 2023 as Community and One People should be “the rights for persons living with this disability is having the right to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else, working With others to improve their lives.

It’s full time we as a Nation and Caribbean Community move forward from the outdated charity model of disability, where people with disability were treated as objects of charity, deserving of pity and relying on others for support.”

People with Down syndrome want the same things as everyone else in the community – the best start in life, a good education, meaningful employment, somewhere to live and active participation in the life of the community around them.

From the world of work perspective, the exclusion of persons living with Down Syndrome from the labour market represents an economic loss, a violation of basic social and labour rights, and formidable social challenges.

Thousands face exclusion, prejudice and other barriers to the world of work. Individuals with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and poor. We know they are also more likely to be stuck in jobs with limited promotional prospects and sub-standard working conditions.

This exclusion from the world of work can cost societies up to 7 per cent of the global GDP each year due to the lost productive potential of an underutilized workforce.

On the labour rights side, the exclusion of people with Down Syndrome not only prevents them from escaping what is a vicious cycle of poverty and marginalization; it is a violation of their most fundamental rights—the right to work and to pursue a life of dignity, free of discrimination.

On the social side, integrated and coordinated social protection floor policies combining basic income and access to health services, employment and skills development policies can make the bridge for people with disabilities to access the labour market. 

For the vast majority of people with intellectual disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, the opportunity to engage in work within the general community has too long been denied. And yet, experience shows that many can thrive as productive workers, given the appropriate support and the ever-increasing benefits of technology.

It is time for us to recognise that people living with Down Syndrome want access to the same range of life experiences and professional opportunities as everyone else. By ensuring equitable access to the world of work, we should help provide them and their families with the means to meet their needs, but also provide them with the dignity and self-respect that each and every one of us undeniably deserves.

So for this year World Down Syndrome Day 2023 it’s more than just putting on colourful socks and taking pictures to post on social media.  There’s a lot of work to be done but we need everyone to take part in a change.

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