A PSA meant to “change the way we look at people with Down syndrome” is being met with backlash.
Actress Olivia Wilde stars in the short video produced by Italian organization CoorDown and her Meadowland director Reed Morano. It starts with Wilde pictured in front of a mirror while a woman’s voice (that is not Wilde’s) says, “This is how I see myself.”
The video then shows the starlet doing everyday things like getting dressed, working, running, dancing and laughing.
“I see myself as a daughter, a sister and a best friend,” the narrator starts off.
“I see myself following my dreams — even if they are impossible. Especially because they’re impossible.”
“This is how I see myself,” the narrator repeats at the end, while Wilde is again shown looking at her reflection.
The camera then pans to show the “real” woman in front of the mirror: AnnaRose Rubright, a 19-year-old Special Olympics athlete who has Down syndrome.
“How do you see me?” Rubright asks.
Some critics, including disability rights journalist David Perry, say the video is “well intentioned… but it fails.” He argues that “it’s not necessary to erase disability in order to promote the notion that people with Down syndrome are whole, complex, competent individuals.”
Others seem to agree, saying there’s no reason an “able-bodied” actress like Wilde should have been featured in the video instead of Rubright herself.
Perry added on Twitter that the “video perpetuates stigma by suggesting a disabled woman should see herself as [Olivia Wilde].”
Its creators responded to Perry, saying he “totally misunderstood the message,” which is supposed to “ultimately challenge the viewer to acknowledge their own prejudice.”
Many parents of children with Down syndrome have sounded off in support of the PSA. One mother wrote on Instagram:
“This is how I see my daughter with [Down syndrome], but when we go out in the world I am too often reminded that others just see the DS. I love this. Hopefully it will teach people to see others how they wish to be seen.”
It’s not the only viral video recently to draw attention to those living with Down syndrome.
WATCH: A Nova Scotia man sent this message to the world last month: His son has Down syndrome and it’s a beautiful thing.
Last year, an 18-year-old Australian model with Down syndrome put her disability in the spotlight as she lived her dream of walking in New York Fashion Week.
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