A True Model of Inclusion … At Long Last Progress

By Jo Ann Simon, Ruderman Family Foundation Disabilities Advisor and CEO Cardinal Cushing Centers

The world, especially the disability world, is understandably excited that Valentina Guerrero, a 10-month-old Miami girl with Down syndrome, is now the face of Spanish swimwear designer Dolores Cortés’ 2013 children’s swimwear collection, DC Kids.

I am over the moon.

Over 30 years ago, I saw the need for children with disabilities to be included in advertisements. As a new mom, I looked over the children’s catalogues and advertisements and I never saw a child that resembled my beautiful toddler son with Down syndrome. Without any influence or clout, I wrote some letters to major companies about feeling excluded from advertisements. I thought my son was cute enough to influence buying decisions and more importantly, I was a consumer. The only one who agreed with me was my sweet and always optimistic father. He also thought his only grandchild was not only cute but, handsome and beautiful. And so, in 1981, Jonathan modeled a shirt and hat in the small catalogue of my father’s business–Simons Uniform Company.

I am not sure that his appearance boosted sales but, it was another step in my own personal advocacy journey.

So, while she is not the first child with Down syndrome to model, Valentina is considered the first to land a campaign with a well-known designer. Progress is made. And the inclusive world I dream about is getting closer to being a reality.

I could not be happier.

–Jo Ann Simons

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Filed under Disabilities rights, Disabilities Trends, Down syndrome, In the Media, Uncategorized

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