Anniversaries are the chance for us to reflect on the past and the changes which have taken place.
Recently we’ve marked 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of same sex relationships and a century since some women got the vote.
Well this past year my family have been marking a less high profile anniversary – my uncle Neil passing his 50th birthday.
Neil’s story is as important to our social history as as those better known milestones because it shows how far we have come in treating people like him.
He has Down’s syndrome a genetic condition that 40,000 others in the UK also live with.
When Neil was born in the 1960s it was normal, perhaps expected for his parents to have him institutionalised.
Many babies with Down’s Syndrome were.
There are plenty of recorded cases where mothers and fathers were advised not to take their newborn baby home and to forget about them. Some of those babies would never leave those institutions.
That culture came from the then view that a baby with Down Syndrome was a mistake and a personal tragedy. It was wrongly assumed people with it could not lead a productive life.
My grandparents wouldn’t contemplate the idea of Neil being taken away. They raised him like their four other children, but help was limited. There were no pamphlets, no guidance, they were just left to get on with it.