Wednesday, October 01, 2008
He approached me with seriousness, handed me a flyer and began to walk away. I asked him to wait for a second while I looked at the paper he'd handed me. It was a flyer for the 'Choices for Down Syndrome Society' and on the inside flap the mission statement 'To allow people with Down syndrome to have the right to make their own choices in their qualityof life' was written by David Ash, a self advocate. I took a guess, "Would you be David Ash?"
He told me that he was and that he was there handing out flyers because he wants to establish a large network in the north of self advocates with Down Syndrome. He was a lively and personable guy so we chatted for a few minutes during the break in the lecture day. He told me that he thought it was really important for self advocates with Down syndrome to find their voice and to speak for themselves. He saw the importance of parents and others speaking up but he felt it was particularly important for those with Down Syndrome to tell the world that it was OK to have Down Syndrome and, gasp, that it was OK to be born that way.
Then we moved on to the thorny issue of abortion and he was fully apprised, fully aware that abortion is seen as the 'cure' for Down Syndrome. He said that it was important for people with Down Syndrome to speak up. To discover and use their voice. It was like talking to a holocaust survivor during the holocaust. I have spoken often with many self advocates about issues regarding oppression and stereotyping but this was my first experience in talking, so openly, with someone who's birth right is in question.
I was deeply impressed by his maturity in being able to recognize that others, maybe even most others, think he should have been done away with ... and to still be sane, still be happy. I asked him if he would like a few minutes at the microphone to talk about his organization and his dream for a powerful group of self advocates with Down Syndrome speaking to dramatic and powerful issues. He said that he would like that opportunity. We took a picture together and then it was time to go on with the day, he spoke to a group of nearly 200, who had come from all over northern B.C. - he spoke briefly but well. He left some flyers for people to look at and then he headed out the door. I watched him as he left, full of dignity and pride, full of a mission and a purpose.
Full of a life, well lived.