Spanish video seeks to erase the stigma of Down syndrome

Boy with down syndrome Credit Unsplash CNA Boy with down syndrome. | Unsplash.

A recent video ad released by the Down Federation seeks to increase awareness of persons with Down syndrome.

Through a series of videos and photographs, the campaign seeks to challenge the prejudices faced by persons affected by disability, noting that "with appropriate supports, they can carry out any goal that is proposed."

The campaign was launched in advance of World Down Syndrome Day, which is celebrated all over the world on March 21, and aims to "increase social awareness regarding people with this intellectual disability."

In the video, four famous Spanish actors – Jordi Rebellón, Vanesa Romero, Eva Isanta and Jesús Olmedo – sit with their eyes closed in front of people with Down syndrome. Little by little, they open their eyes, and break away from the "prejudices, stereotypes, doubts, misgivings and appearances" that the video says "create an invisible blindfold that prevents one from seeing reality."

The Down Federation of Spain video closes by inviting Spaniards to "open your eyes and look at the person in front of you," as a concrete way to "change the view of Down Syndrome."

The video is part of a larger campaign the organization is launching under the theme: "Change your view on Down syndrome." The group has also hosted a performance by dancers with Down syndrome as well as a chance for the public to read both discriminatory messages and positive messages received by individuals with Down syndrome.

"We want to encourage real change" in the way society views people with Trisomy 21, the genetic disorder that causes Down syndrome, the organization said in a statement.

Agustín Matía, manager of the Down Federation of Spain, told the Spanish newspaper La Razón that "the number of people with this syndrome has remained stable in recent years, between 34,000 and 35,000, but the trend is that this number will decrease, although their lifespans are increasing. There are already people in their 70s and 80s, but births are falling."

According to previous interviews in 2015 by Matía, Spain has one of the smallest populations of persons with intellectual disabilities in the world, and the lowest rate of Down syndrome diagnoses to births on the planet. In the past, Matía has blamed the abortion of those prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 21 – along with societal biases – for these incredibly low rates.

"Disability is not assumed. Many people believe, when they see on the street some of these children, that they are unhappy, and it is the opposite. They are very wrong," Mattia said in a statement on the group's most recent project.

He also pointed to the need for support from the medical community when a couple is informed that they may have a child with the condition.  

Matía also argued that children with Down syndrome "should be integrated into normal schools with the supports they need." This is something that rarely happens Spanish schools.

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