Statement of the Public Defender on World Down Syndrome Day

OnMarch 21, the Worldmarks World Down Syndrome Daywhich aims mainly at raising awareness of all sections of society, including members of families with persons with Down syndrome.

In 2015, the awareness-raising campaign is focused on the role of families and the positive contribution that they can make towards the enjoyment of full and equal rights for people with Down syndrome.Empowering families to promote the equal status of their members in society and development is crucial, so that they can provide support, advocate for opportunities and choices and empower people with Down syndrome to express their own views and make their own decisions, as well as advocate for themselves.

When talking about the importance of World Down Syndrome Day we cannot avoid discussing problems that exist in Georgia with respect to protection of rights of these persons. According to statistical data, one in 600-800 newborns in the world are born with Down syndrome. To this day there are no statistics in our country on the number of people with Down syndrome, including children. Persons with Down syndrome are still unable to enjoy opportunities for full and equal participation in all spheres of life. The state does not have a policy and approaches that are based on needs assessment. On a daily basis, the above mentioned persons are facing obstacles in the process of realization of their rights.

Persons with Down syndrome need special care from birth. Access to adequate medical service, relevant examinations, continuous early-involvement programmes, specially-trained caregivers in pre-school educational institutions, participation in inclusive school process where similarly specially-trained teachers conduct the study process are vital for them. The above will create basis for their engagement in inclusive vocational and high education system that will later ensure successful realization of the right of these persons to work and employment.

One of the important problems constitutes myths and incorrect attitudes established in the society about people with Down syndrome.

These stereotypical views are further reinforced by usage of incorrect terms by representatives of various sections of society that unfortunately occurs even today.

It is important to change attitudes of the society toward people with Down syndrome, elimination of the existing stigma and raising awareness of this issue. And personnel of medical institutions can play an important role at the initial stage of this process. Correct provision of objective information in line with ethical standards to parents of a newborn with Down syndrome by medical personnel will support families to develop a correct attitude. This process may include giving advice on care for a child, appropriate responses to problems in early age which is important for later general social integration of persons with Down syndrome.

The Public Defender of Georgia calls on all parties, mainly the state, to ensure broad participation of families with members with Down syndrome, organizations that work for protection their rights, civil subjects and enhance efforts for raising awareness of the society aimed at improvement of legal rights and socio-economic situation of persons with Down syndrome and their full inclusion in the society.

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