A deaf rapper?
When Marko Vuoriheimo told his friends and family that he wanted to pursue a career in music he was met with everything from raised eyebrows to outright ridicule. “My teachers, relatives and some of my friends … didn’t really believe in my career at all,” said the Finnish native, whose stage name is Signmark. “But I thought, I’ll still get there and I want to … give an opportunity for this dream of mine.”
A deaf rapper?
When I first visited the college town of Madison, Wisconsin (USA) in 2000, what first stood out wasn’t its beautiful university campus or its famous brat and beer combo. What caught my attention was a public bus which had the equipment to lift a wheelchair. “Beep, beep, beep,” a sound would signal as the bus would lower and extend a ramp to aid people in wheelchairs to board the bus.
At that time, I had never seen anything like this bus and thought, “Wow! Why can’t we have such services back in my country?” No such buses existed in Korea where I grew up. But more than just the bus, I remembered thinking that I rarely noticed people with special needs in Korea. In hindsight, the lack of support and consideration for people with disabilities and ignorant attitudes were also reasons why people with disabilities were rarely seen in public.
Addressing needs through action
In 2014, I became the task leader for Bangladesh’s Disability and Children at Risk (DCAR) project. The difficult situation faced by persons with disabilities in the country was a reminder of the contrast I had experienced in that college town. Accessible transportation was not the only service lacking for people with disabilities. There was a lack of access to health facilities for checkups and treatment along with a short supply of therapy equipment and wheelchairs. A lack of respect towards persons with disabilities by the wider public was also a challenge. Moreover, the project was not delivering the results that it expected to achieve.
The first ever World report on disability, produced jointly by World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, estimates that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. In his foreword to the report, Professor Stephen Hawking wrote: “Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”
Despite Professor Hawking’s powerful words and individual example of success with a very debilitating disability, the report acknowledges that people with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives, including prejudice and stigma from society.
When it comes to intellectual disabilities, persons afflicted with these conditions are more disadvantaged in many settings than those who experience physical or sensory impairments, according to the report. Particularly, people with Down syndrome suffer great discrimination and misunderstanding from the general public. And it is not a small group. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.
In order to break stigma and barriers regarding this mental disability, an annual awareness day was established. March 21, 2016, was World Down Syndrome Day. In honor of this day, the advertisement agency Saatchi & Saatchi produced this powerful campaign on social perception of Down syndrome.
Source: Saatchi & Saatchi