I was navigating the controlled chaos of Denmark’s Legoland together with my children and mother when the shocking news of a brutal mass killing in Japan reached me:
A 26-year old man had broken into a care home for disabled people where he had previously worked and killed nineteen of its residents with a knife.
He was reportedly driven by an intense hatred of people with disabilities and had even proposed in a letter to the Japanese parliament that disabled people should be euthanised for the good of society.
Meanwhile, at Legoland, I noted the overwhelmingly positive attitude of the park’s employees towards visitors with disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome.
Many rides cater for wheelchair users and people with special needs are allowed faster access to rides. From Legoland’s disability policy I also learned that although disabled visitors pay the same entrance fee as other visitors, their responsible helpers go for free.
For those with hidden disabilities, such as autism, ADHD and anxiety there’s also a ‘show consideration card,’ which helps to alert the park’s employees to any visitor needing assistance.
It may be tempting to infer from all this that Denmark is particularly welcoming to people with disabilities, but here’s some disturbing information that challenges that perception:
Since 2004 all pregnant women in Denmark are offered a nuchal scan to test for Down’s syndrome and as a result, the percentage of Down’s foetuses aborted have now reached a high of 98%. If this trend continues, Denmark could become the first country in the world to eliminate Down’s syndrome.
Some call it eugenics.
Despite an abundance of evidence showing that people with Down’s can and do live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, regardless of their functional skills, the medical profession continues to treat Down’s syndrome as a suffering-inducing condition that mothers would do best to avoid at all cost.
Diehard ignorance and prejudice prevent us from genuinely appreciating that more often than not people with Down’s syndrome live happy lives and contribute to the happiness of those around them.
People with Down’s now live longer, healthier lives than ever before, attend mainstream school, learn to read and write. Many adults live independently and hold down jobs and marry.
Some even go further. In 2013, Angela Covadonga Bachiller became Spain’s first city councillor with Down’s syndrome, and the British actress Sarah Gordy has appeared in several acclaimed TV series, including Upstairs Downstairs and Call the Midwife.
Sujeet Desai is an acclaimed musician who plays eight instruments and has won several awards for his music as well as for his mission to show that, given the right opportunities and support, people with disabilities can achieve their dreams.
For , as these three individuals show so beautifully, people don’t suffer from Down’s syndrome. They live with it.