Mongol. I don't like that word. One of the things I know about the history of Downs Syndrome is that many years ago the word mongol was used to describe people who have my condition. Hearing this word “mongol” said on TV was very disturbing. It made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel bad, but we can't escape that is part of our history as people with Downs. The programme I am talking about is called One Extra Chromosome, a BBC documentary set in Ireland and presented by Stephen Nolan. The documentary aims to raise awareness about Downs Syndrome by following Stephen as he talks to different generations of people who have Downs from a baby to a 80 year old man (the oldest man with Downs Syndrome living in the UK!).
The programme starts showing how people saw Downs Syndrome in the past using old film clips. In the past people who have Downs Syndrome used to be treated very badly. They were made to live in institutions and some were even experimented on and the programmes shows old footage of people in hospitals and babies left in their cribs. This is so obviously wrong that its hard to believe it even happened. What's even more unbelievable, it that people with disabilities are sometimes made to live in institutions now.
I am so passionate about Downs Syndrome and to show the world the positives instead of the negatives. This show is very important as it gives a message to the audience which is; we are people too and we have rights and a voice that needs to be respected. Stephen admits on the programme that he had ideas of what people with Downs Syndrome would be like before he met them. He thought they would be stupid and not know their own minds. After meeting people with Downs he now admits that he was wrong, but how many other people might have the same thoughts?
I feel the documentary could have touched on some of the current struggles people with Down Syndrome face, not just ones in the past. We can't all get our dream job like the teacher in the documentary or get to play with a famous football team. These things are possible but some people need help and support in achieving their dreams. Being a part of a Self Advocacy group gave me the skills and confidence to speak out to tell others what I want from my life. It is important for people who have Downs to be able to speak up for themselves to get the best possible life because not all the time we are being listened to.
I am glad that this documentary was made as it has a very powerful message to the audience which is; don't be so quick to judge before you get to know the person. Whilst I was watching I reflected on my own life as a person with Downs Syndrome. Discrimination faces me but in my case I am lucky I have a loving family who support and protect me.
You can't live your life by a label.
Written by Leah Jones