Self-Advocates championing inclusion through Key Word Sign this World Down Syndrome Day
In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day 2023, ‘Our Lives, Our Voices’ (OLOV) Self-Advocates starred in a music video showcasing their talents, hopes and dreams while championing inclusion through Key Word Sign (KWS). The OLOV-KWS stars also performed a snippet of the music video at MINDS’ 60th anniversary Gala Dinner in November 2022, teaching their audience of over 500 people some Key Word Signs from the song.
Three of these Self-Advocates are Grace Ng, Gabriel Leon D’cruz and Chionh Hai Xiang. We chat with them about what their experience starring in the video and their hopes as we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.
Hello! Can you introduce yourself?
Grace: I am Grace Ng. I am 38 years old. You can see that I have Down syndrome. I have been a proud representative of the OLOV community since 2018. I make it a point to walk 5000 steps at the park in my neighbourhood every day.
Gabriel: I am Gabriel. I am 34 years old. I like to sing in church and along with the radio. My favourite radio station is Class 95. I have been working in F&B as a cleaner for almost 7 years. I aspire to get a job in the hotel housekeeping industry.
Hai Xiang: My name is Chionh Hai Xiang. I am 20 years old. In my free time, I like to solve puzzles, play toys, and watch fun videos. I am currently undergoing training at MINDS WEDC where I help to prepare corporate orders by packing items such as combs, toothbrushes, towels, and cards.
You practised Key Word Sign for almost 3 months to perform during the gala dinner and music video shoot! What was the journey like for you?
Grace: There were many things for us to learn, step by step. First, we learned the lyrics to the song. Then, we learned how the lyrics sounded together with the music. Then, we learned Key Word Sign. Finally, we put it all together to make our very own music video.
I wrote down about the journey in my journal, so that I could share about what I learned with Mum and my helper Auntie Rose. Auntie Rose was so curious that she started to learn Key Word Sign together with me and my friends.
I also remember that we performed Key Word Sign to the song during the MINDS gala dinner. There were many people there, but I did not feel afraid. I was happy to perform together with my friends.
Gabriel: I really enjoyed myself throughout the whole journey because I got to learn Key Word Sign together with my friends every week. Whenever I was free, I would practice Key Word Sign by myself in front of my bedroom mirror. I may not know how to sing the song, but I remember every word in the lyrics. I would say the words out loud and practice Key Word Sign for each word or phrase.
We got to perform Key Word Sign to the song in front of more than 500 people during the MINDS Gala Dinner. I never performed in front of so many people before! It was an exciting moment that I will always remember, because so many people watched me and my friends perform together.
What was your favourite part of the journey?
Grace: My favourite part of the journey is learning and performing Key Word Sign. You can tell a beautiful story using just Key Word Sign.
Gabriel: I love that I got to learn Key Word Sign. My dream is to teach other people who do not know it, such as my uncles and aunties. In fact, I want to teach everyone the song and for more people to learn about Key Word Sign so that we can all communicate with people who cannot hear and speak.
Hai Xiang: I love that I got to learn Key Word Sign and make new friends (John, Lenny, Peisi, Catherine, Michael, David, Johannes, Raghu, and more!) through this journey.
What did you learn about yourself through the journey?
Grace: I learned that with the help of the people around me, I am capable of learning something. I learned that I can communicate with anyone using Key Word Sign, and we are not limited by just speech and writing. Finally, I learned that I am someone who will always do my best for anything I take on.
Hai Xiang: I learned that I am also an important part of the community, and we can all be included together to learn new things, make friends, have fun, and support one another. I want to continue to learn how to be an independent adult so that I can contribute even more to our community spaces.
How would you encourage others to be inclusive too?
Gabriel: I would encourage other people to be inclusive through my own actions. I want to be an encouraging friend to anybody who may feel left out. I want to let them know that they can join me, and I am here for them. I would encourage more people to do the same for other people too, so that we can help one another.
Grace: We can all learn to be more open and start listening and talking to other people around us, so that nobody will ever feel left out. We can show interest in other people and encourage them if they need help. We should not stay silent if we see other people being ignored. This is what social inclusion means to me.
The ‘Our Lives, Our Voices’ (OLOV) Self-Advocacy Programme is organised through a partnership between MINDS and Down Syndrome Association (Singapore). The programme guides persons with special needs through introspective journeys to discover their strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests, and to speak up for themselves and the causes they believe in. Find out more about OLOV here.
The Colour Socks Parade is MINDS’ annual event to showcase the gifts and abilities of PWIDs, raise awareness of PWIDs in the community and to foster meaningful engagements between PWIDs, their families and the wider community.
This year, we’re also championing inclusion through sports and making sure our PWID friends are not left behind. Through sports play, we hope PWIDs and their families will be encouraged to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle to improve their health, sustain employment and enhance their quality of life.
Join us at The Colour Socks Parade 2023 Inclusive Sports Fiesta at Our Tampines Hub on 1 April 2023. Registration is free! Get more details and register your interest for the event here.
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