Working Toward Equality in Mexico for Individuals with Down Syndrome
“My daughter, Cosette, has been able to learn many things…she has integrated well into our family, and they all ask me where I bring her to school. I am very happy that, with the help of the Langdon teachers and my work with Cosette at home, we can achieve many goals that I had previously thought unattainable for my daughter.”
– Ethel, whose daughter Cosette attends school at TRF local partner Fundación John Langdon Down in Mexico City
Ethel has a daughter with Down syndrome. According to United Nations, roughly one in 1,000 children in the world are born with Down syndrome each year.
In September 2014, representatives from the Mexican government presented the National Programme for Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities to the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This document outlined the plan for applying quality standards and equal rights and opportunities to individuals with disabilities throughout all 32 states in Mexico by 2018.
As the Mexican government makes strides in recent years to increase access for individuals with Down syndrome to health, employment and education services, nonprofit organizations throughout the country are fighting stigma and discrimination so as to similarly provide equal opportunities to this demographic.
In 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations deemed Mar. 21 to be World Down Syndrome Day. This year, Down Syndrome International (DSi), is focusing on “My Opportunities, My Choices” – Enjoying Full and Equal Rights and the Role of Families. On the eve of World Down Syndrome Day, TRF is highlighting two of its partner organizations in Mexico City who assist individuals with Down syndrome to do just that.
Fundación John Langdon Down’s programming focuses on both the comprehensive educational and emotional experiences of its beneficiaries, thus encouraging these individuals to acquire the skills, habits and values they need to live independently, form their own personal identity and successfully integrate into society. Recognizing that a child with Down syndrome poses particular challenges for families, Langdon works to also support parents through information sessions and sharing spaces. Teachers at Langdon Down are specifically trained to work with this population. While helping foster an inclusive and stimulating educational environment for their students, teachers also provide families with exercises that they can complete with their children outside of school, helping to further reinforce skills development and family integration through a positive home environment.
Just as parents and family members have an integral role in quality education and early stimulation activities for their children, they are also a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to promoting equal rights and opportunities for adults with Down syndrome. One of the largest goals for this adult demographic is to lead a productive life by overcoming not only common unemployment challenges but also discrimination, unfavorable health and dependency issues and historically poor government assistance.
The vocational training program run by TRF local partner Gente Excepcional A.C. works with individuals with intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome, to promote labor market inclusion and independence. Tamale-making workshops allow for employment training and professional skills development, while independent living seminars address topics like public transportation, recreation activities, financial services, sexual and reproductive education and personal hygiene. Parents and family members are likewise supported and engaged in similar activities. The organization further advocates for employment equality and labor inclusion by collaborating with local businesses, highlighting how individuals with Down syndrome can be productive and equal contributors in the workplace.
As organizations like Fundación John Langdon Down and Gente Excepcional A.C. continue to fight discrimination and provide vital support services to individuals with Down syndrome and their families, and as the Mexican government works to standardize the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities across all of the country’s 32 departments, more and more people like Cosette will be rightfully and wholly integrated into their families and communities.
Interested in learning more about World Down Syndrome Day and in staying up to date with the #WDSD15 Conference being held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City? Click here.
By Christina Mellace, TRF Program Reporting Manager