Information Officer I
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Vornicia's House of Commerce, Long Bush
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
E-mail Address: FRandall@gov.vg
Director of Disabilities Services Miss Crystal Estridge says this year’s World Down Syndrome Day theme “With Us Not For Us”, reinforces the message that persons who are special needs deserve to be treated as an individuals with their thoughts and feelings.
Miss Estridge in a statement, said that the theme also challenges the common perception of people to do things for people with disabilities instead of doing things with them.
She added that advocacy for special needs persons in the Virgin Islands are to be done with the needs of these persons in mind.
Miss Estridge said, “In the past, we might advocate on behalf of. But what we're looking to do is walk in tandem with. We are trying to walk alongside them with whatever their goals and needs are from their perspective and not only what we think is best”.
She added, “So, having those conversations with individuals who have various challenges and asking them what areas they think we can better serve them, instead of telling them that this is what they need to do. So we need to be with them and not dictate what their life should be.”
Miss Estridge highlighted that there are three separate programmes to assist special needs persons at the Disability Services Division namely an early intervention programme, the autism programme – which also serves individuals with different developmental disabilities, and the adult services.
The director noted that with the adult services, the majority of the population of individuals that uses the services has Down syndrome.
Miss Estridge said, “At our adult services, we try to help them to develop various cognitive skills, where they might have deficits. We also try to help them to build different vocational skills. Eventually, the hope is that they can be employed because just because you have a disability does not mean that you are unable to be gainfully employed it does not mean that you cannot be included in society.”
World Down Syndrome Day is observed every year on March 21. The condition is caused by a chromosome abnormality and according to the United Nations, the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.
Miss Estridge said it is important to observe the day as persons with Down syndrome are still members of society and need respect. She added that they must also be included and incorporated into society's daily operations.
“We observe this day just so that the public could have knowledge about these individuals and so that they would be more accepting of these individuals,” the director said.
The public was also asked to wear multi-coloured socks to show solidarity with those who have Down syndrome.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development through its subsidiary the Disabilities Services Division remains committed to serving the needs of special needs persons in the Virgin Islands.