By Robin Lea-Amos, Executive Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix
GiGi’s Playhouse is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome, their family and the community. Recently, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes presented us with a proclamation that declared March 21 as World Down Syndrome Day in Arizona. To us, this is an incredible honor and an important way to help spread awareness and celebrate our neighbors with Down syndrome.
While presenting the proclamation, Secretary Fontes spoke about the need for inclusion and awareness of people with Down syndrome. The world has come a long way in the past few decades. In the United States, we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. This was a huge step in providing equal rights to the disability community, including those with Down syndrome.
And then in 2014, congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) act, which allowed the creation of tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. This made it easier to cover expenses like education, housing and transportation.
Despite these advancements, there is still work to be done to create an inclusive society and community for people with disabilities. While you will find individuals with Down syndrome learning with their peers in local schools, working alongside typically developing people and competing with other professional athletes, it may surprise you to know that there are members of GiGi’s Playhouse that still have trouble finding knowledgeable doctors, face employment discrimination or are kept completely segregated from their peers at school.
A few years ago, one of our participants fought all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court just so they could attend their neighborhood school – breaking down the barriers of discrimination.
When any group is excluded from society, we all suffer. We lose out on knowing their unique personalities, benefiting from their amazing talents, and improving because of their strengths. We should all have the opportunity for growth, education, and employment that appreciates our differences.
Every person deserves to be seen and celebrated for who they are, and every family needs a community of understanding and support. Additionally, by providing support and resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and the community, we can help provide the tools that lead to more fulfilling lives and increase opportunities for our participants to reach their potential. A more diverse and accepting community allows for everyone to contribute their skills and abilities, further fostering a more welcoming, supportive, inclusive society.
The end of the World Down Syndrome Day proclamation says, “Now therefore, I, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, do hereby recognized, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, as World Down Syndrome Day in Arizona so that we may see a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted and embraced in their families, schools and communities.” That sounds like a pretty good world to us.
GiGi’s Playhouse is the only nationwide network of Down syndrome achievement centers. When the Phoenix location opened in 2015, it was the 21st center for the network. GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix provides educational and career development programs for individuals with Down syndrome of all ages, their families and the community. We are 90% volunteer-run, and all programs are 100% free to families. From pre-natal diagnosis through career skills, GiGi’s Playhouse makes a lifetime commitment to families.
For more information on GiGi’s Playhouse visit https://gigisplayhouse.org/phoenix/
About the author:
Robin Lea-Amos is a nonprofit professional with more than 10 years of experience in grant administration, board governance and communication, management, public speaking, meeting and event planning, development, fundraising and community engagement. She is also the proud grandparent of Jackson, who was born in 2015 with the incredible gift of Down syndrome.