Claudia Lowe was recently honored as the 2012 outstanding advocate by the University of Rhode Island’s Council for Exceptional Children. After her daughter, Katie, now 32, was born with Down syndrome, Lowe and other parents and families founded the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island in 1982. At the time, no other parent support groups existed. Lowe went on to serve as the organization’s president for three years before becoming the organization’s coordinator. In addition, she’s served on several other boards focusing on disability advocacy.
PBN: What types of resources does the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island provide?
LOWE: The Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island is dedicated to promoting the rights, dignity and potential of all individuals with Down syndrome through advocacy, education, public awareness and support. It offers individual and family assistance, expectant parent materials, brochures and packets for new parents, a lending library, general membership meetings, a newsletter, social and fundraising events and social networking. It’s also affiliated with the National Down Syndrome Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society.
PBN: How has the public’s perception of Down syndrome and those with Down syndrome changed since your daughter was born?
LOWE: Even today, as was true when Katie was born, too many folks still make generalizations when it comes to Down syndrome. Many people see the disability before they get to know the person. Folks with Down syndrome are more alike than different! They should be given the same opportunities for a full life as folks without the extra chromosome. They should also be treated the same as folks without Down syndrome. Some people we like, others we don’t, but this should have nothing to do with the way someone was born.
PBN: What are some advances you’d like to see made in the disabilities community?
LOWE: The public’s perception of those with disabilities depends heavily on the way people speak about them. Many in society classify people by their disability, using the disability first (Down syndrome child vs. a child with Down syndrome), which negatively impacts children in schools, parents with a prenatal diagnosis and potential employers. Unfortunately, too, the use of the “R” word seems even more prevalent today than when Katie was born. Plain and simple, it just should never be used in any derogatory manner. •