A woman named Charlotte Woodward recently went viral on TikTok for shedding light on some inequalities people with Down syndrome face:
BuzzFeed spoke to Charlotte, who is the Community Outreach Associate at the National Down Syndrome Society. "I am also a college student at George Mason University — straight As all the way. I'm going for a degree in Sociology with a focus in social justice and inequality. My mom told me when I was born that doctors said I would never learn to read or write and that I would be placed in a separate workshop as I grew up. I have, however, proven those doctors wrong," said Charlotte.
As Charlotte highlighted in her TikTok — which has more than 3 million views — one of the inequalities people with Down syndrome face is being rejected for life-saving organ transplants. "I was born with not just Down syndrome, but also a heart condition. I've had four open-heart surgeries. I was a prime candidate for a heart transplant and I am so glad the doctors looked beyond my Down syndrome diagnosis because the problem is most transplant teams don't do that. Most people with Down syndrome are denied getting transplants, and I am trying to change that."
And Charlotte has already made progress in doing so. She told her story in front of the Virginia State Legislature, which successfully passed an organ transplant discrimination law where people with intellectual and physical disabilities cannot be denied an organ transplant.
Marriage also impacts people with Down syndrome. "As a person with Down syndrome and a heart transplant who is receiving Medicaid benefits, it is extremely important to have healthcare. However, it can be taken away if a person with Down syndrome gets married. That's something that I want to do, to get married down the road, but I can't jeopardize my benefits," she explained.
BuzzFeed also spoke to Ashley Helsing, who is the Director of Government Relations at NDSS. Ashley explained the story of the death of Ethan Saylor. "He was a gentleman with Down syndrome in the state of Maryland who was in a movie theater and wanted to watch a movie. He was, unfortunately, killed by those who were trying to restrain him. Here at NDSS, we help train police officers on how to interact with people with disabilities so they have a basis of how to do that and prevent these things," she said.
Another inequality people with Down syndrome face is their employment wages. Ashley explained, "The US Department of Labor provides employers with certificates that allow them to pay people with disabilities below minimum wage. The way it's supposed to be set up is the employers will have an employee without a disability perform a task and then have the person with the disability perform the same task. They will both be timed. However long it takes the person without the disability to perform the task is the time that holds minimum wage. Then, however much longer it takes the person with the disability to do it, they deduct from minimum wage. It's pretty ridiculous. I would hope that we, as a society, have moved passed that, but, unfortunately, we have not."
"These laws don't need to be on the books anymore, and they can be changed. If everyone who watched Charlotte's video just sent a quick note from our website to their member of Congress to demand change on these things, they would change," said Ashley. This link will take you directly to a page where you can take action to help make a difference.
If you want to learn more about the inequalities discussed in this post and what NDSS is doing to raise awareness and change, you can read more here.