An extra chromosome won’t prevent realising goals

We’re preparing for a landmark event, says Heather Irish

A wee extra chromosome neednt stop a person from achieving their dreams. Picture: Esme Allen

What do you know about Down’s syndrome? Would you be surprised to hear that people with Down’s syndrome have become local councillors, actors, models, fashion designers, restaurant owners, university graduates, musicians and athletes?

You will no doubt hear more about Down’s syndrome in the coming years as Down’s Syndrome Scotland will host the World Down Syndrome Congress 2018 (WDSC 2018) in Glasgow. It’s our hope that the event challenges the stigma of Down’s syndrome. It is only a wee extra chromosome after all. It needn’t stop a person with Down’s syndrome from achieving their dreams.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Over 1,200 people including people with Down’s syndrome from around the world are expected to attend WDSC 2018. Down’s Syndrome Scotland will host the congress on behalf of Down Syndrome International (DSi). The congress is an event that happens every three years – last year it was in Cape Town, South Africa, and in 2015 it will be in Chennai, India.

Scotland was one of six countries that submitted bids to host the 2018 congress.

Andrew Boys, Director of DSi says: “We look forward to working with Down’s Syndrome Scotland to hold a congress that will help to fulfil our mission to improve the quality of life for people with Down’s syndrome worldwide and promote their inherent right to be accepted and included as valued and equal members of their communities.”

The congress will visit Scotland for the first time in 2018. It brings together people with Down’s syndrome, their parents, carers, professionals, practitioners, researchers and organisations. WDSC 2018 certainly will not disappoint. We want our congress to be the event by which all future congresses are judged.

Pandora Summerfield, Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland, says: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us and for Scotland. It’s an opportunity to showcase the excellent work done by practitioners in Scotland and in the UK, but also to welcome people with Down’s syndrome and their families to a range of information.”

It’s our hope that not only will the world’s finest researchers and medics present their latest findings at the congress but that participants will learn a great many things from the event programmes and from its international delegates – whether you are a politician, researcher, teacher, medic, member of the public or have a connection to Down’s syndrome in any way.

The congress will be open to the public – we’ll be encouraging you to attend the various fringe events, which will include a debate on language in comedy and an employability seminar. If you are a comedian who would like to take part in the debate or a Scottish employer who would like more information on the employability seminar, please contact us.

The congress’s practical and advocacy programmes will appeal to many people – whether you’re a politician, advocate, charity worker or a family member of a person with Down’s syndrome. You will hear innovative case studies detailing how people with Down’s syndrome are included in society.

There will be volunteer opportunities for adults with Down’s syndrome across Scotland to help shape the programme for adults with Down’s syndrome. We will be looking for Congress Commissioners in the years to come.

Our bid was led by Andrew Macintyre, 26, Stuart Campbell, 27, and Sam Ross, 25, each of whom has Down’s syndrome and are members of Down’s Syndrome Scotland.

Sam, from Glasgow, says: “I’m looking forward to meeting other people with Down’s syndrome from other cultures. I want to hear different languages because I’m learning French. Visitors will love Glasgow as the people here are very friendly and kind.”

In the next few years, you will hear more about this event and we hope you’ll want to attend. So we ask for your feedback. What would you want to know about Down’s syndrome? What are your experiences of Down’s syndrome? Send your thoughts to us at [email protected]

In the meantime, mark your calendars for WDSC 2018 on 1-4 August 2018. While you’re in Edinburgh for the Fringe, pop on the train to Glasgow to help us challenge the stigma of Down’s syndrome. See for yourself how you can make a difference and how people with Down’s syndrome can enrich society if they are simply given the opportunity. Help us make Scotland lead the world in acceptance and inclusion.

• Heather Irish is communications and fundraising officer, Down’s Syndrome Scotland