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UN Secretary-General Marks World Down Syndrome Day, Urges Acceptance

Yesterday marked the tenth-annual World Down Syndrome Day. While there were a variety of celebrations worldwide, perhaps the most touching came from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke about the importance of families and empowering individuals with Down syndrome.

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Persons with Down syndrome face stigmatization, abuse and lack of support. Too often, their challenges begin early in life when they are excluded from quality education systems. Adequate access to health care, early intervention programmes and inclusive education, as well as appropriate research, are vital to the growth and development of individuals with Down syndrome.

The role of families is central to supporting persons with Down syndrome by promoting their equal status in society and empowering them to be their own advocates. At the same time, we must recognize our collective responsibility to create conditions for all persons with disabilities to make valuable contributions to our shared future. We must promote inclusive policies and raise awareness about social justice for people with Down syndrome, and do everything possible to enable them to live where they want and with whom, to form their own families, to administer their own assets and to pursue their own happiness.

I applaud all those who champion the rights and lives of persons with disabilities, and I urge others to support them. Let us use this World Down Syndrome Day to advocate for a more socially just and inclusive world.

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In the United States and Europe, around 90 percent of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome are aborted. In other countries, babies born with Down syndrome are abandoned as newborns. That is extremely tragic, and parents should have some kind of support system to ease their fears about having a child with a disability. People with Down syndrome may have challenges, yes, but they are able to do many of the same things as someone without a disability, from modeling to singing in Eurovision.

Human rights begin in the womb, and every life is precious.

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