LONDON, UK — In a world increasingly focused on inclusion, there are still those who roll out ridiculous excuses not to be inclusive. On World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, CoorDown – the National Coordination of Associations of People with Down Syndrome – is launching the international awareness campaign “RIDICULOUS EXCUSES NOT TO BE INCLUSIVE,” to affirm the right to full participation in society and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, free from all forms of discrimination and ableism.
Over the past few months, with the help of associations from all over the world, CoorDown has been asking people who have Down syndrome, and their families, what excuses they have heard for being excluded from education, sports, jobs, and other opportunities. Some of these excuses were so incredibly ridiculous that they deserved to be brought to life and properly celebrated. This is where the film draws its inspiration from: in a comic, yet bitter, tone of voice it tells precisely the most frequently used excuses for denying access and legitimate space to people with disabilities. It illustrates, in five scenes, episodes of everyday ableism, from being excluded from class trips, in the workplace, at school, playing sports, at summer camps and in the wider community.
- “It’s not your fault, we’re the ones who are not prepared to take you on the field trip!,”
- “We already have a child like you in the group,”
- “We don’t have enough chairs to invite you to the meeting,”
- “We closed registration just ten minutes ago!”
These are some of the ridiculous excuses given, excuses that deny people who have Down syndrome the chance to fully participate. But there are no acceptable excuses not to be inclusive.
In the coming days, until March 21, CoorDown’s TikTok channel will feature real testimonies from people who have Down syndrome and their families from all over the world and the ridiculous excuses they have had to hear. To this, TikTok users will add their stories inspired by the campaign’s jingle and a specially created sticker, as well as the official hashtag #RidiculousExcuses.
In nearly two decades since its establishment, CoorDown has witnessed many achievements in terms of rights and inclusion, but people with Down syndrome still face episodes of discrimination and exclusion every day. People with intellectual disabilities, in fact, still must fight for a place in school, summer camps, sports, the workplace and social life.
Exclusion today is almost never direct and explicit; ridiculous excuses are often made to hide a starker truth and discriminatory attitude. People with disabilities suffer systematic disadvantages in all areas of their lives due to a pervasive, treacherous, and invisible mechanism that is taken “for granted,” what is called out-and-out ableism.
Ableism is a word with a broad meaning that concerns the often unconscious and unacknowledged norms, common sense, and codes that shape our ideas and representations about disability. Talking about ableism aims to expose how discrimination is a cross-cutting issue that also affects people with other disabilities or neurodiversity, but not only. It is also necessary to bring attention to other types of diversity and disadvantaged social groups who experience the same issues.
The film “Ridiculous Excuses” will be available exclusively on CoorDown’s TikTok channel on launch day and then spread across all the organization’s platforms. The campaign is a collaboration with agency SMALL New York and was produced by Indiana Production and Tiny Giant and directed by Stoney Sharp. Music was composed and produced by Stabbiolo Music.
Antonella Falugiani, President of CoorDown ODV, said, “With this global campaign we touch on an issue that concerns each of us: naming and making visible a phenomenon that people with Down syndrome and their parents, brothers, sisters and caregivers experience on a daily basis. They may seem like small events, but in reality, they are real discriminations often done with a smile of circumstance or unawareness that nevertheless mark the lives and hearts of those who suffer them. The time has come to break down this wall as well and expose the false “good intentions” of those who out of laziness or lack of understanding still exclude people with intellectual disabilities. With this campaign we will give space and voice to boys, girls, children and adults with their families who will tell us how many ridiculous excuses they have had to listen to and how they reacted to assert their right to participate and decide on every aspect of their lives.”
Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, Executive Creative Directors, SMALL New York, said, “We are very happy to partner with CoorDown again for World Down Syndrome Day. When we heard what kind of excuses people with Down syndrome and their families were receiving for being excluded, we said that these excuses deserved to be brought to light and ridiculed. With our friends at Stabbiolo, we came up with a jingle that would emphasize how absurd these arguments really were. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those who are discriminated against learned this jingle and sang it as a response to those who, with a smirk, make excuses for exclusion? Wouldn’t it be nice if people with Down syndrome learned it, yes, but also people with other disabilities, or any other person who is discriminated against?”
Giacomo Lev Mannheimer, Head of Government Relations & Public Policy Southern Europe, TikTok, added, “We have often experienced how the creators of our community, through their originality manage to overcome language, cultural and social barriers, creating awareness and stances on issues that are taboo, niche, or not particularly “cool.” Their success demonstrates how authenticity can be an incredible vehicle for awareness campaigns: a global megaphone as well as a catalyst for engaging and making millions of people think about socially indispensable issues. All from stories of “extraordinary” everyday life. Given this similarity of purpose and worlds, we are thrilled to embrace CoorDown’s project: the campaign is innovative and touching, and we can’t wait to see what the community will create and the positive impact the stories shared will generate.”
Karim Bartoletti, Partner/MD/Executive Producer, Indiana Production, said, “It is an honor for me to support and be part of the World Down Syndrome Day Campaign and collaborate with Coordown and the creative agency SMALL, not only for the cause that we have been supporting for four years now, but also for the partnership between the Client, the Agency and Us, which has consolidated every year into a unique and united team. This year, the insight and the communication strategy required us to create a production project that would get inspiration from a certain type of TV-based iconography, so to allow the real ‘ridiculous excuses’ that we staged as comedic skits to impact our audience in a stronger, clearer, true-er manner, through a jingle and a logo typical of a certain type of sitcom and television-based comedy which adds a bitter sweet underline to the ridiculousness of the excuse we just heard.
This American sitcom iconography from which we got our inspiration, necessarily brought us to produce the project in the US, entrusting the direction of the campaign to a comedy director/author of the caliber of Stoney Sharp, who we brought on board thanks to the effort of the New York based production company Tiny Giant. I believe that the perfectly constructed situations in which we have placed a carefully chosen cast of actors, have allowed the directorial treatment of the creativity to explode into a highly impactful and, hopefully, very successful campaign for people with Down Syndrome and with disabilities that we will surely support every year through the advocacy activity of our productions.”
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is a global event – created by Down Syndrome International and officially sanctioned by a UN resolution – designed to spread awareness and knowledge about Down syndrome, to create a new culture of diversity, and to promote respect and inclusion in society for all people with Down syndrome. The choice of the date 21/3 is not accidental: Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is characterized by the presence of an extra chromosome – three instead of two – in chromosome pair No. 21 within cells.
The theme of this year’s World Day is “With Us Not For Us,” and aims to turn the spotlight on one of the rights too often overlooked in the debate and inclusion policies. Indeed, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls for the full and effective participation of people with disabilities, each with the right to be treated equally and to have the same opportunities as everyone else, working together with others to improve their lives. Sometimes, however, the idea persists that people with Down syndrome are “objects of charity and solidarity,” deserving of pity and support from others, who do actions or campaigns “for” them and not “with” them. People with disabilities must be able to exercise the freedom to make their own choices and must receive full and effective support over which they can have control. On World Down Syndrome Day, all organizations of people with disabilities will demand to be included in the decision-making processes of national and international institutions and to have representation.
This year’s international campaign was again produced with contributions from several international associations including Down’s Syndrome Association (UK), Down Syndrome Australia, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, Best Buddies International, National Down Syndrome Society, Karachi Down Syndrome Program and under the patronage of DSi – Down Syndrome International.
The official hashtags of the campaign #RidiculousExcuses #WorldDownSyndromeDay #WDSD23.
CREDITS Agency: SMALL
Executive Creative Directors: Luca Pannese, Luca Lorenzini
Creative Director: Fabio Tridenti
Production Company: Indiana
Production Partner/MD/Executive Producer: Karim Bartoletti
Senior Producer: Lilli Auteri
Director: Stoney Sharp
DP: Joe Gabriel
Co-Production Company NY: Tinygiant
Founder/Executive Producer NY: Veronica Diaferia
Partner/Executive Producer NY: Sara Eolin
Line Producer NY: Neil Champagne
1st AD: Mark Kaufmann
2nd AD: Cody Maher
Editor: Luca Angeleri
Supporting Editor: Simone Moraca
Senior Post Producer: Alga Pastorelli
Colorist: Claudio Beltrami
Motion design & Compositing: Sincromie
Post Production Audio: Bravagente
Compositing: Alessandro Canu
Original Music: Stabbiolo Music – Alessandro Cristofori, Diego Perugini and Guido Pietrella
Vocals: James Wertts, Lara Karuna, Aurion, Eugene van Hemert, Nadia Guelfi, Daria Tanasenko, Andrea Castellana