Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur has joined Down’s Syndrome Scotland in their Lots of Socks Campaign at the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness for World Down’s Syndrome Day 2019.
Celebrated annually on 21st March and officially recognised by the UN since 2012, this event provides an opportunity to highlight the societal contribution that is made by, and the issues that affect, people with Down’s syndrome in Scotland and beyond.
This coincides with DS Scotland’s ‘Mind Your Language’ campaign to raise awareness of negative language and its impact on people with the condition. ‘Mind Your Language’ is a month-long initiative designed to shift public opinion, including a public awareness campaign on social media and stakeholder engagement activities with the press community in Scotland.
Findings of a new survey conducted during this campaign have shown that inappropriate or negative language towards people with the genetic condition is still common across Scotland.
Nearly 60% of parents who took the survey and who have children with Down’s syndrome, said they have experienced offensive or inappropriate comments from members of the public, their friends or family, and 40% have witnessed negative language from professionals, including nurses, midwives, doctors, teachers and social workers. A further 40% said that they were offended by some sections of the media who unwittingly were using incorrect language – for example abbreviating terms – often because of a lack of knowledge or awareness.
The vast majority of respondents were offended by descriptions such as a ‘down’s baby’ or ‘down’s man/woman’ which puts the condition at the forefront, rather than a more appropriate term such as ‘a person with Down’s syndrome.’ The message from DS Scotland is that those with Down’s syndrome are people first, rather than being defined by their condition. ‘Person first’ language is important in making this distinction.
Kerry Lindsay, Communications Manager at Down’s Syndrome Scotland said:
“While we knew that people with Down’s syndrome were frequently referred to as ‘Down’s’ rather than a person with Down’s syndrome, we were surprised that the results of the survey revealed the word ‘Mongol’ was still used so frequently in society today. We are hoping through our campaign that people from all generations of society will think twice before using these words in the future. Our aim is to also encourage everyone from professionals to family members to always put the person first and use people first language, to see past Down’s syndrome and see the whole person. ”
Tom Arthur MSP commented:
“I was delighted to join in solidarity with Down’s Syndrome Scotland and the Lots of Socks campaign today as part of Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week. In order to ensure our society is inclusive and accessible, as well as to eradicate the negative stigma which can unfortunately still prevail, it is vital that we acknowledge and lend our support to awareness campaigns such as this.”
“Raising awareness through campaigns like Lots of Socks and Mind Your Language also offers a chance to recognise and commend the essential services provided by organisations such as DS Scotland, the only charity in Scotland focused solely on the needs of people with Down’s syndrome and their families, and individuals across the country in an effort improve the lives of those with Down’s syndrome.”
Further information on the invaluable work carried out by Down’s Syndrome Scotland can be found here.