Disability advocates are encouraging allies and the community at-large to put their best foot forward on World Down Syndrome Day. The call-to-action is simple: just wear colorful, mismatched socks on March 21. The purpose of this fun fashion statement is to create much-needed conversations surrounding Down syndrome. About 1 in every 800 babies is born with Down syndrome, according to Down Syndrome International.
Why 3/21 is World Down Syndrome Day
Celebrated annually on March 21, World Down Syndrome Day is about fostering a collective desire to support and advance the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome which, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, can cause intellectual developmental disabilities, as well as low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and other differing characteristics.
With some celebrations dating back to 2006, the United Nations is credited with officially distinguishing World Down Syndrome Day as March 21 back in 2012. The date of 3/21 connects to the genetic makeup of Down syndrome. Also known as Trisomy 21, Down syndrome occurs when, by chance, a person has three copies of chromosome 21, rather than two. [Accounting for 95% of Down syndrome diagnoses, Trisomy 21 is the most common type; however, Translocation Down syndrome and Mosaic Down syndrome are two other types of the condition.]
Why Mismatched Socks
Some attest that, when viewed through a microscope, the chromosomes resemble socks; thus, the concept of socks was a natural fit for Down syndrome awareness. Others explain that wearing mismatched socks is an easy, diverse approach to promoting the beauty of differences. And again, vibrant mismatched socks are, well, attention-grabbing and, so, it’s probable that a person may ask the wearer, “Why do you have on mismatched socks?” And just like that, socks step up their game for inclusion, letting the wearer initiate a conversation about disabilities. For example, “I’m wearing mismatched socks to help raise awareness of Down syndrome. Did you know that Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition? Let me tell you more…”
Mismatched Socks Aren’t the Only Theme
Each year, aside from the inclusion of mismatched socks, World Down Syndrome Day embodies a specific campaign theme. The 3/21/2023 theme is: With Us, Not For Us. Down Syndrome International explains that this year’s messaging centers on a human rights-based approach to disability. Because, according to the organization, it’s key to “view people with disabilities as having the right to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else, working with others to improve their lives.”
Down Syndrome International says that the need for an official observance day on 3/21 remains essential because, all around the world, many people with Down syndrome are:
- denied quality education,
- denied proper health care,
- denied the chance to work and earn a fair income,
- not permitted to make life decisions, and
- not have their voices be heard.
Ready to Kickstart the Disability Conversation?
Participating in World Down Syndrome Day is simple. You can:
- Wear mismatched socks on 3/21. If you forget, swap one of your socks with a friend at school or work. Or just spark up the important conversation sans socks! [Pssst… you can purchase a pair of “official” campaign socks, with proceeds benefiting efforts led by Down Syndrome International. Or, order all sorts of fun designs from John’s Crazy Socks, a company co-founded by an entrepreneur with Down syndrome.]
- Share messaging on your social media platforms using the hashtags #LotsOfSocks and #WorldDownSyndromeDay (and tag AmeriDisability).
- Fundraise to advance Down syndrome research, education and programs. Maybe ask colleagues to donate $3.21 on World Down Syndrome Day. Or donate any amount you see fit to a local, national or international charity serving people with Down syndrome.
- Learn more and share. Download resources to help communicate the importance of inclusion and diversity.
- Participate in the National Down Syndrome Society’s 7th annual virtual ‘Racing for 3.21’ event. You can run, walk, bike, hike, swim or whatever for 3.21, 32.1 or 321 miles at any time, any place and at any pace. Or how about doing 3 sets of 21 push-ups?
- Keep the conversation going all year-round. Explore ways to advocate for people with Down syndrome and the disability community at-large. Inclusion matters!
- Forward this AmeriDisability article or any educational piece to a friend to help further awareness.
Isn’t this a fashion statement worth making?