World Down Syndrome Day 2022 is on Monday, 21 March. The theme for this year’s event is ‘What does inclusion mean?’
Our colleagues Brooke Canham and Tara Elliffe took time out from their work to share their thoughts on what inclusion means to them with our Inclusion Manager, Becky Rowe.
Thanks for talking with me today. What does inclusion mean to you?
Brooke: Inclusion means that everyone is working together as a team.
Tara: Inclusion means being part of a community [with] lots of different options for us.
What does inclusion look like at work?
Brooke: In the workplace I feel having my opinion and having my voice heard is being included. I get to say what I want to say, and I’m not pushed to the side…
Tara: [It’s about] new challenges and adventures, to understand what we have to say – work in a team and celebrate Down syndrome with me!
How do the people you work with make you feel included?
Brooke: [They] let me say what I like to do during the workday. [They also] make a work plan to help me focus and be included in the team and understand all the things. Also, my coworker talks to me and tells me things. I feel included because she is comfortable around me to include me.
Tara: [My co-worker] understands me… he knows me. He’s got a good sense of humour, he’s funny. He teaches me all sorts of different kinds of things like leadership. [My boss] also includes me. She has a son with Down syndrome. Parents who have good relationship with their daughter or son with Down syndrome [helps them to support me].
What can other workplaces do to make people with Down syndrome feel included?
Tara: They should be doing a lot of training of how to support us. There should be training on disabilities. [Especially] training with people with Down syndrome as presenters. We all have a voice to use – just listen to me!
Brooke: Don’t discriminate. Give them a try. If we need help, let us ask questions. Never judge a book by its cover. A lot of people are very rude to people with Down Syndrome.
Tara: Workplaces that don’t include you make me so stressed. I got a migraine and my body shut down. I was very stressed and had to leave that job.
Brooke: To be included is to be invited to staff functions, don’t be rude about it! My other work has included me in their team [Brooke also works in a coffee shop]. They are very inclusive there, we always talk together, we always communicate on a higher level. I’m happy my boss reached out and wanted to work with people with Down syndrome. He says it makes him happy.
What does inclusion look like in the community?
Brooke: [It’s about] going out to places and being included in the things you love to do.
Tara: I socialize, coffee, food, shopping, hanging out with my family, music, football, games, walking, sky diving! My friend did it so why can’t I do it?
Brooke: Sometimes it could be a bit better. Some people stare at you, and I don’t feel like that’s very inclusive. If something goes wrong… if you’re upset then people in the community don’t come and make sure you’re OK. I think that’s more due to COVID. Like people trying to keep their distance.”
Tara: I have 3 brothers. It’s difficult the impact of Down syndrome in my family. It’s a challenge. [But they make me feel] good because their friends are my friends too. I’m an aunty of 2 girls who are 6 and 2. I like to teach the girls to learn about people with Down syndrome like me. Their cousin has Down syndrome too. I’m not the only person in the family with Down syndrome. There’s 3 of us.
Brooke: [Being included] is a positive feeling. It makes you feel you know someone in the community is there. You know you’re being treated the same way as other people.
How does your community include you?
Brooke: A lot of family include me… They always ring me making sure I’m OK. They include me in family events. Mum always asks me to come round for dinner and includes me in fitness – like going to spin class together. Dad calls me and picks me up from places… asks me what I want and cooks dinner. [My sister] includes me in a lot. She does so much for me. She includes me with going out with her friends sometimes. She includes me in so much. My neighbours include me as well. [We] talk when things go wrong – like if someone breaks into your house – and they help you out. [We need] more people looking in and being aware that someone who has Down syndrome may need help.
What can the community do better to include people with Down syndrome?
Brooke: Not just looking at people and putting a label on them. [Having Down syndrome] can be challenging… people label that as ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’. That ticks me off! That really gets to me.
Tara: Groups, like community groups, for everyone. I’m starting a group of my own soon. It’s for people about my age – adults. We’ll hang out, get coffee, lunch, movies, social outings…
Brooke: At the shops… People speak to us as babies and it’s very patronising. Everywhere, the hospitals, the gym, just everywhere… needs to be more positive. It’s okay to have a disability! It’s okay and people don’t understand it’s okay.
Tara: Don’t be afraid of showing people what is you. I am proud to have Down syndrome. I have friends with Down’s and friends without Down’s. I have both. They treat me as a normal person. I am a woman, hear me roar!