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France’s first public official with Down syndrome brings new perspective to the masses

Éléonore Laloux speaking during an event
Photo: Collectif les Amis d'Eléonore/Facebook

In Arras, France, the country’s first appointed official with Down syndrome is dispelling myths and bringing about new perspectives to the public.

In 2020, Éléonore Laloux was appointed municipal councilor of Arras under the mayor Frédéric Leturque, for which she has received admiration for promoting the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in society, reported Good News Network.

On October 15th, Laloux was awarded membership of the National Order of Merit, the second highest civilian honor roll in the country.

“Inclusion isn’t something that we just think about; it’s not a generous act. It’s our duty,” Mayor Leturque told the Christian Science Monitor. “Eléonore has helped the entire town progress in terms of how we see disability.”

A very committed individual, Laloux not only has a part-time job at a hospital, a busy volunteer schedule, and a board position on Down Up, a nonprofit her father created to support community members with Down syndrome and their families, she has also made several adaptations to everyday community services in Arras to empower persons with all types of disabilities.

Arras’ famous town center, town hall, and belfry are a UNESCO Heritage Site, and for those who are unable to climb to the top, Laloux organized the development of a virtual tour.

Below, crosswalk lights now have verbal instructions for those who can’t hear or see. She has also organized an “incluthon” for next summer, an event to include persons with disabilities and the community at large through sports and culture.

“I’m a very committed and dynamic person, and I like to be out working with people,” said Laloux, who in 2014 authored a book which roughly translates to Down Syndrome, So What?!

Her positive attitude has made Laloux a popular person in town and country.  She has made many television and other public appearances, including alongside many national politicians and cabinet members.

Among many, one significant accomplishment of Laloux’s is opening Arras to a Dutch method of civil society called “the Nudge” a sort of “c’mon then,” to the community to get them to love their town. Nothing could better symbolize “the Nudge” than putting small imitation basketball hoops over public trash bins.

Laloux has continued her activism on behalf of those with Down syndrome, with her “Friends of Eléonore,” foundation, arguing loudly against those with a narrow understanding of the potential of persons with disabilities.

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