“Assume That I Can, So Maybe I Will”: World Down Syndrome Day Campaign Goes Viral

“Assume That I Can, So Maybe I Will”: World Down Syndrome Day Campaign Goes Viral

Created in by the Italian Down Syndrome organisation CoorDown, in partnership with Down Syndrome Australia, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in the US, and several other organisations worldwide, has taken the world by storm, reshaping perceptions of people living with a disability.

The campaign, created for World Down Syndrome Day (21 March), stars Madison Tevlin and challenges the assumptions often made about people living with Down Syndrome.

The ad asks the question – what happens when you assume people living with a disability can’t do something? And challenges what could happen if we all started assuming anything was possible. The ad cuts to the heart of a chronically misunderstood condition, reminding us that how we treat people impacts what they are capable of.

“If all your assumptions become reality,” Tevlin says in the campaign. “Assume that I can learn Shakespeare, so – what fools these mortals be –  I learn fucking Shakespeare”.

Speaking to CNN, Tevlin said that she enjoys proving people wrong. “When I was born, the doctor told my mom and dad that life would be really hard for me, saying that I can’t talk, or walk, or dance, or model, or act — or drinking or getting married — any of this stuff that’s part of normal life,” she said.

“I always say that I have Down syndrome, and it’s the least interesting thing about me,” Tevlin said. “We should all celebrate our differences in our own special and unique ways”.

Kandi Pickard, president and CEO of the NDSS in the United States, told CBS News that the video is driving conversations around the true limitations—or lack thereof—of people living with Down Syndrome. “It is Bringing more awareness to Down syndrome, bringing more awareness of these preconceived notions and stereotypes.”

“We need to make sure as a society that we’re respecting that people with disabilities have a voice and that people with disabilities deserve to be heard and respected,” Pickard said.

The video has been shared far and wide, with the original campaign raking up over 170,000 views on YouTube. “This is the most powerful campaign and comms that I’ve seen. If you only have one minute spare, please spend it watching this,” Justin Farrance, senior manager and global ambassador for DE&I at Allen & Overy, said in a LinkedIn post.

“OK, but this needs an Oscar. BEST AD EVER,” said one commenter. “I want to drink margaritas with her. Brilliant campaign,” said another.

Down syndrome is a condition caused by an extra partial or full chromosome. The condition does result in slight cognitive delays, but the NDS said that these delays are usually “mild to moderate” and do not impact the ability to contribute to the community or make decisions about their own lives.

In Australia, it is estimated that one in every 1,158 babies born will have Down syndrome. The life expectancy of people with Down syndrome has dramatically increased over the past 50 years, with the average life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome in Australia sitting at 60 years of age, according to Down Syndrome Australia.

B&T contacted Down Syndrome Australia for comment on its involvement in the campaign but did not receive a response prior to publishing.

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    1. This is fantastic, outstanding in fact, what a powerful message! Well done to everyone involved, especially the main actor, Madison Tevlin, what an articulate, capable and impressive young lady she is, bravo!

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