Down Syndrome exhibit underway

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Almost a year since the introduction of a controversial prenatal screening test, a photo exhibition is underway in Tokyo to dispel misunderstandings about children with Down Syndrome.

Originating in Britain, the exhibition titled “Daun-sho: Kazoku no Manazashi” (“Down Syndrome: The Family View”), features 80 photos and short films that capture “happy” moments in the lives of people with the syndrome. The subjects come from a variety of ages and ethnicities.

The show originally started in 2005 with photographer Richard Bailey, whose daughter has Down Syndrome, as the chief organizer. It toured seven countries before Japan with the objective of helping to create a more “inclusive” society that embraces individuals regardless of disability.

“Each kid with the syndrome has their own dreams, and thinks and acts differently. So every one of them really should be treated as one separate individual,” not under the same label of “kids with Down Syndrome,” said Ayako Mori, a member of the Japan Down Syndrome Society, which organized the Tokyo show.

Japan saw a groundswell of interest in kids with the chromosomal disorder following the introduction of a new prenatal screening test last April. Unlike its conventional counterparts, the test is touted as being capable of detecting the disorder based on a simple blood sample.

Concerns were raised that the very simplicity of the test might lead more pregnant women to abort fetuses found to have the disorder, and in effect discriminate against such children even before they are born.

Mori, who at the age of 39 gave birth to a daughter with the syndrome, said her girl, now 6, is leading a happy life.

“I find it very sad that the test might be strengthening the belief that the lives of kids with the disorder are worthless,” said Mori, who added that Down Syndrome kids are generally affable and have little proclivity for spite.

The exhibition is at Itochu Aoyama Art Square through Sunday. Admission is free.