On the first official World Down Syndrome Day, leaders from Congress to the United Nations took time out to honor those living with the chromosomal disorder.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, disability advocates and those with Down syndrome joined for a conference Wednesday to mark the first worldwide awareness day.
Though advocacy organizations around the world have observed World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 since 2006, a resolution approved by the U.N. General Assembly late last year gave the day an extra level of credence.
Officials acknowledged the troubles that many with Down syndrome around the globe have in accessing equal opportunities to participate in schooling and other activities and called for change.
“Let us build an inclusive society for all,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in marking the new awareness day.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to speak about her personal experience as the mother of a 5-year-old with Down syndrome.
“Cole has given me a whole new perspective for being a mother and also being a member of Congress,” McMorris Rodgers said of her son. “Cole’s birth has given me a whole new purpose for serving in Congress and he reminds me every day of the significance, the tremendous positive impact that every single person has on this world.”
Going forward, the world community will honor Down syndrome annually on March 21 in accordance with last year’s U.N. resolution.
The date, 3/21, has special significance, advocates say, since Down syndrome occurs when an individual has three copies of the 21st chromosome.