The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is applying to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to have people with Down Syndrome added to its list of endangered species—which would make them the first humans on the list.
Animals designated as endangered receive added protection and resources, and advocates for those with Down syndrome, seeing the numbers shrink as US birth projections fell 30 percent, are asking for more support and visibility. The CDSS estimates there are 45,000 Canadians with Down syndrome.
“People with Down syndrome face far more challenges than most of us, and they need more support than they’re getting,” said CDSS board chair Laura LaChance. “Whether it’s underfunded support programs for education, higher rates of unemployment, extended waitlists for appropriate housing, or even just negative public perception and stigma, the challenges faced by people with Down syndrome aren’t decreasing—they’re increasing.”
If added to the list of more than 27,000 endangered species, the CDSS hopes it would be able to better “advocate for similar kinds of funding, protections, government intervention and public awareness that species on the Endangered List receive.”
By the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s own criteria, the Down syndrome community qualifies as endangered. So we’re applying to be the first humans ever on the Endangered List. Sign our petition to @IUCN at https://t.co/N51TZGMDzm #EndangeredSyndrome pic.twitter.com/YEpI92HzY4
— CanadianDownSyndrome (@CdnDownSyndrome) November 2, 2018
The group will submit the application to the IUCN and present it to the United Nations on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, 2019.
The campaign, intended to bring awareness of challenges faced by those with Down syndrome, features kids as endangered animals—and was created pro-bono by Toronto-based agency FCB Canada.
Over 65% of people with developmental disabilities are out of the workforce. To guarantee the support we need, we’re applying to be on the Endangered List. #EndangeredSyndrome Support our application at: https://t.co/N51TZGMDzm pic.twitter.com/WcEMx3IYim
— CanadianDownSyndrome (@CdnDownSyndrome) November 7, 2018
This is the third appearance for Dylan (the polar bear) and Krystal (the panda), while Joshua (the rhino) and Jessica (the lion) are returning from last year. Ava (the sea turtle) is just six months old, and her parents announced their pregnancy on Facebook by sharing the CDSS’s “Anything But Sorry” videos.
“Our work is meant to capture their personalities and be authentic to who they are,” said FCB Canada’s co-creative chief Jeff Hilts. “They’re playful, forthright and strong advocates for themselves. It may seem to be a dramatic way of getting our point across, but the fact is, we need a dramatic shift in awareness and attitudes for the public to understand the seriousness of funding shortfalls if we are to provide a meaningful and inclusive life for the Down syndrome community.”
The agency team wanted “nothing cutesy or meek,” added Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, FCB Canada’s other CCO.
CDSS spokesperson Ben Tarr said of the creative strategy, “There’s always a risk. The reality is we have to be bold to get our message out there.”
“This campaign is about our existence in life,” said Canadian actor Dylan Harman, who has Down syndrome. “Everyone has a purpose. It’s better to treat them like any normal person and send them to schools to learn. It’s important to have an education in your life. More support helps a lot.”