By Peter Brackett
The calls with radio stations up and down the country were starting in earnest first thing in the morning. There was the last-minute scrambling to get people into studios across the main networks. All the while the Whatsapp messaging was frantic, excited, jubilant. The day had finally come. The second reading of the Down Syndrome Bill was upon us and the Founding Members (FM) of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group were in high spirits, optimistic of the right outcome.
While fellow FMs were busy engaged with TV crews, I was huddled in my study with a list of the BBC local radio stations I was charged to speak to. Unaccustomed to media work, thoughts scrambled through my head about fluffed words or just plain getting it wrong. Fortunately, the excitement was obviously infectious and each radio presenter I spoke with was in awe of the fact that this was the start of what would be a world first – a piece of legislation dedicated to those with Down syndrome.
I switched on the television to watch the debate live in Parliament. Dr Liam Fox was already on his feet and I felt a swell of pride within me – pride for the fact that here was a distinguished Member of Parliament standing up, speaking so eloquently, battling for the rights of people with Down syndrome. Pride also for the culmination of the work the NDSPG had done. A team of passionate advocates from across the UK and Ireland coming together for the sole purpose of doing the right thing – improving the lives of people with Down syndrome; those alive today and those who will be born tomorrow.
To get to Parliament in time for our rally I had to leave home and get a train before the vote. Having witnessed speech after speech from MPs on both sides of the house I had no doubt of the result, but nonetheless seeing it confirmed in writing would quell any last-minute nerves. So a text to my daughter who was still avidly watching progress to let me know when the vote happened – which was immediately replied with confirmation. A smile, a relax and then a mental fist pump!
The scene outside Parliament was one of smiles, hugs, dancing and lots and lots of media, all intermingled with the striking colours of the NDSPG purple, pink and blue. Pure celebration, elation at this amazing achievement. In calmer moments we recognised the work to come. It will not be straightforward, but now we know there is a will I have no doubt we will find the way.