Saturday 20 December 2014

'From campaigns to rugby, people need to see what we can do'

At 31, David Clarke is an active campaigner for the rights of people with Down Syndrome, and one of the subjects closest to his heart is political inclusiveness.

People with Down Syndrome have the right to vote, but political manifestos are often presented in such a complex way that it's difficult for people with special needs to understand them.

"I have enjoyed learning about voting since I was a teenager," says Drogheda native David. "It'd be great if we had easy-to-read voting papers. It's important we understand what we're voting for."

It's such an important message that David has been invited to address audiences as far away as New York, the United Nations, Washington and Cape Town.

Next month, he and his father Pat, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), have been invited to speak at a conference in Bali.

David is no stranger to being in the public eye and takes the limelight in his stride. "Through my work with DSI, I have been photographed with Miriam O'Callaghan and Rosanna Davison," he says.

He also holds down two day jobs, working with Tesco and assembling hampers for gifts.ie.

"People need to see what we can do and I thank Tesco and gifts.ie for giving me that chance," says David.

"I support Leinster rugby and I play tag rugby every Saturday," he says. "I am a good swimmer and I have a red belt in Tae Kwon Do."

David is one of 7,000 people in Ireland with Down Syndrome, a condition in which an extra 21st chromosome affects the physical development and learning abilities of the person.

Set up more than 40 years ago, DSI has become the leading source of support and information for people with the condition and their families.

With 25 branches nationwide, it is funded through voluntary contributions and one of its latest fundraising ventures is a new charity shop in Dublin's Grafton Street where, along with great quality clothing, bags, jewellery, curtains and all kinds of other goodies, you can also buy Christmas cards and calendars.

Located beside the Molly Malone Statue, the shop is open Monday to Saturday, from 9.30am-5.30pm.

Last month, one of DSI's biggest annual fundraising campaigns, Boyne Valley Honey Days, was a great success.

Irish Independent

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