Down's syndrome pair walking tall

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 12:00am

Post office workers are thriving after landing jobs

Wu Hoi-yu walks with his head high and a spring in his step as he goes about his duties at Hongkong Post, and well he might.

The 29-year-old is one of only two Down's syndrome people who have a government job.

Social workers yesterday described the employment of Mr Wu and Lam Wing-shan, 21, as office assistants as a breakthrough in public acceptance of people with the genetic disorder.

They were speaking ahead of World Down's Syndrome Day today.

'People with Down's syndrome had few opportunities to work for the government in the past,' Down Syndrome Association director Christopher So Kwok-on said.

'Hopefully the government and private businesses will be more open to them in the near future.'

But it has not been all plain sailing for the pair. Mr Wu said he did not like the looks people sometimes gave him. 'I tend to look away if others look at me in a strange way.'

But his supervisor and employee training officer, Ivy Tang Sau-fong, said Mr Wu took pride in his work. 'Hoi-yu is very proud of being a member of Hongkong Post, often holding his head high and having a spring in his step. He takes part in a lot of company events.

'His ability is no less than an ordinary office assistant and he works very hard.

'After working with him for some time, we found that we had underestimated his capabilities.'

Ms Lam said she also often felt uncomfortable about the way some people looked at her.

'Often I sense some discrimination in their eyes but I don't hate them,' she said. 'My colleagues are very nice to me. We have no problems getting along. Sometimes they buy me cakes and cookies.'

She said she hoped to become a fashion designer in future.

British doctor John Langdon-Down first described the disorder in 1866. It is caused by the presence of all or part of an extra chromosome.

It causes intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities that can cause heart problems, recurrent ear infections and difficulty breathing.

It occurs in one in 800 to 1,000 births. Mr So's association has nearly 700 members and he says there are several thousand people with Down's syndrome in the city.

Only about a dozen had been able to find employment. 'People with Down's syndrome experience considerable difficulty in employment,' Mr So said.