The term “Special Needs” is one of those cringe-worthy, euphemistic, ways to speak about people with disabilities. For years I couldn’t put my finger on what it is about this phrase that bothers me so much…but this PSA for World Down Syndrome Day perfectly illustrates everything wrong with the term ‘special needs.’
Staring “Glee” actress Lauren Potter, this video uses ingenious humor to point out that people with Down syndrome don’t’ require any ‘special needs’ but regular needs. The #NotSpecialNeeds campaign is about creating awareness about the very real and normal needs that people with Down syndrome have. They have the same needs as everyone else: like access to jobs and education. This PSA is so relevant, I’d say the message rings true for people with all disabilities.
We all need love, friends, and community. We all needs jobs, healthcare, and education.…and there is nothing special about that.
What I love most about this PSA is the way it uses humour to shine light on a very real, often political issue – people with disabilities have basic needs that are not met, are often overlooked, and boxed in under categories like ‘special needs.’
Language is a really important tool that can either empower people or ‘other’ them. The overall lack of understanding and ignorance around the language of people with disabilities causes people to use words like “crippled,” “mobility challenged,”and “wheelchair bound”. These terms are super outdated and come with institutional, demeaning, often derogatory baggage. Its time to put these terms to bed.
At AccessNow we like to emphasize person first language. We recognize and acknowledge the individual over their disability….because our disabilities do not define us.
Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and we are celebrating this fantastic new video PSA. Thanks to nonprofit CoorDown for bringing a fresh tone to a very real issue and providing a platform for many others online to share their #NotSpecialNeeds.
Created by Publicis New York and directed by Wayne McClammy, the PSA will be presented at the 6th World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 21.