Down Syndrome South Africa



Article 27 and the Right to Inclusive Employment – UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 27 of the CRPD requires States Parties to safeguard and promote the realisation of the right to work of persons with disabilities by taking appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities in the workplace.


“Valued, Abled and Ready to Work”

Employment is one of the most important changeovers to an independent life. The World of Work Supported Employment Project is a Down Syndrome South Africa’s employment project.  The Employers manual is intended to guide employers on what supported employment is, on hiring persons with Down syndrome by highlighting benefits, sharing success stories, identifying challenges and the support systems needed to open the pathway to successful employment of persons with Down syndrome.

Employment of persons with disabilities is Good4Business as there are mutual gains for both the employer and the person employed in the workplace. Persons with Down syndrome involved in employment initiatives have a better quality of life and opportunities for development, while the companies that employ them often report significant improvement in their organisational health, such as leadership, client satisfaction and motivation for fellow staff. (Mckinsey & Company, March 2014 Report)

 Persons with Down syndrome want to work, have the right to work, and are willing and able to work with the right support

Success stories of persons with Down syndrome working and earning a living in South Africa and abroad gave families and persons with Down syndrome hope for their adult future.  In many instances, in our country, families managed to find employment for adults with Down syndrome without realising they are actually partly following the Supported Employment model.

By focusing on abilities and not disability; by providing support to the person, depending on individual need; and by providing advice to employers, families and organisations worldwide have demonstrated that supported employment is an effective way for persons with Down syndrome to get and keep a job in the open labour market.

The baseline is the same: supporting persons with Down syndrome to get and keep a paid job in the open labour market.


In essence, supported employment is based on the values of full inclusion and human rights for persons with Down syndrome. It is compatible with the “social” model of disability in which the person with Down syndrome is recognized as a citizen who has the right to participate.

A few core values and guiding principles for supported employment are the beliefs that:

All persons with Down syndrome:

• can work – (“zero rejection”)
• has the right to work
• has the potential and ability to work
• can choose their work
• has to be remunerated for the work they do
• is entitled to long-term tailor-made support
• needs an individual person-centered approach
• will be supported on the job, for the job and does not have to be ready for the specific job (job readiness training programmes can be a continuous circle keeping the person out of a job)

When the process of supported employment is guided by these values and principles, lives could be changed!

This is what our young adults had to say:

I, and many others like me, have demonstrated that we can contribute and be successful in the competitive workplace. I am thankful and proud of having a job, and for me, it is more than a paycheck, It gives me dignity..

Testimonial from an Employer


While a lot of progress has been made regarding disability, negative words and stereotyping remains a barrier in the lived experiences of persons with disabilities and often lead to misguided perceptions and outdated beliefs and low expectations in the community about intellectual disability.
Some misconceptions are that persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities are not able to work, require high levels of support or will not be safe in the workplace, so should be in a more supported environment (as sheltered workshops). However, these are incorrect, and with the right support many persons with Down syndrome can work in paid employment.
There is also a stigma attached to persons with disabilities, especially persons with Down syndrome. Many people, due to ignorance, believe the following myths;


Persons with Down syndrome stop learning or plateau

Persons with Down syndrome cannot achieve normal life goals.


Persons with Down syndrome start learning from birth and continue throughout their lives. Their only limits are other people expectations

With the right support, persons with Down syndrome can achieve their goals. Globally the vast majority of persons with Down syndrome are attending mainstream schools, passing exams and living full, semi-independent adult lives.

Persons with Down syndrome are always happy and affectionate.

We are all individuals and persons with Down syndrome are no different to anyone else in their character traits and varying moods.

Persons with Down syndrome cannot be employed

Many businesses employ persons with Down syndrome in a variety of positions. Persons with Down syndrome want what anyone else wants, to be employed and be valued

All persons with Down syndrome have severe cognitive disability

Most persons with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive disability, or intellectual disability. This is not indicative of an individual’s talents and abilities.

Do not have the ability to learn skills necessary for the work place

With the correct support, persons with Down syndrome can and do learn the necessary skills needed in their work environment.

Persons with Down syndrome have a higher than ‘normal’ sex drive

Persons with Down syndrome are human beings and have the same needs and wants as anyone else

Persons with Down syndrome cannot follow instructions or understand what you are saying to them

Persons with Down syndrome can follow instructions and have a very good understanding of what is being said to them or around them, if you feel they have not understood a question, shorten your sentence and simplify it.

Persons with Down syndrome are at greater risk of injury.

Employees with disabilities are no more likely to be injured at work than other employees.

Persons with Down syndrome are unreliable and will take a lot of sick days.

Research has shown that employees with Down syndrome actually take fewer sick days, are more punctual and stay in jobs longer than other employees

Employing someone with Down syndrome will be expensive

There are costs associated with employing all staff. On average, it costs no more to employ a person with Down syndrome than any other employee. Plus, there are cost savings with less absenteeism and staff turnover.

DSSA Launched the Supported Employment manual on the 13th March 2021. To obtain copy please contact the office:

Cover Page Employers manual

Families pamphlet

Pamphlet for Employers