The World Down Syndrome Congress which was held in Glasgow in July 2018 has been recognised as a leading example of excellence within the global meetings industry thanks to the success of its ‘Commissioner Programme’ which was first developed when Down Syndrome Scotland and Glasgow began bidding to host the congress.

The programme placed three local young people with Down syndrome – Sam, Andrew and Stuart – at the very heart of Glasgow’s campaign to bring the congress to Scotland and subsequently put them at the forefront of the conference itself.  The associations responsible for the congress, Down Syndrome International (DSI) and Down Syndrome Scotland, were selected by an independent panel of industry experts as winners of this year’s ICCA Incredible Impacts Awards.  The associations were presented with the award at the ICCA Congress in Dubai and have received a $7,500 grant towards future work of this kind in subsequent World Down Syndrome Congresses.

When Down Syndrome International (DSi) chose Down’s Syndrome Scotland (DSS) to host the 2018 Congress, the Commissioner Programme was further developed by DSS to harness the enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge of Sam, Andrew and Stuart. The goal was to encourage them to tell their story and inspire other young people with Down syndrome from Scotland and the rest of the world to be involved in the Congress, helping to realise DSI’s vision of “People with Down syndrome living healthy and meaningful lives in the community”.

Pandora Summerfield, Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland, said: “Putting people with Down’s syndrome at the very centre of the congress, from bidding to delivery was always our absolute goal.  The 12 Commissioners had an immense impact on delegate experience both directly at the event and indirectly by training key people in the city who would provide services to delegates.  The experience had a significant impact on the Commissioners too, some of whom will work with us to support future hosts in developing their own version of the programme.  The award is recognition of how an incredible impact is sometimes about more than just delegate experience.”

In March 2018, to coincide with Down Syndrome Awareness Week, DSS in partnership with Glasgow Convention Bureau, VisitScotland and Glasgow Welcomes hosted People Make Glasgow Welcome workshops. These were delivered by members of the Commissioner Programme and tailored for front of house staff across the hospitality industry in Glasgow including hotels, restaurants, venues, taxi drivers and visitor attractions.  The workshops aimed to educate customer facing staff about Down syndrome, remove some of the stigma surrounding the condition and ensure that all delegates received a warm and appropriate welcome when the Congress took place.

Over 300 attendances were recorded at these workshop sessions, ensuring that not only were the city’s tourism and hospitality businesses prepared for the WDS Congress but were now better equipped to engage with Glaswegians and future visitors to the city who also have Down syndrome.

The initiative was such a success that DSI plan to encourage and support future hosts to replicate a local commissioner programme in future congresses in Dubai and Brisbane, utilising Down’s Syndrome Scotland’s experience and expertise to pass this on to the next host cities, using the funding from the award grant.

Over 1,000 people attended the Glasgow congress, bringing together a range of professionals and researchers from health and social care, education, employment and human rights. People with Down syndrome and their families.

Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, said: “From bid stage to the conference itself, it has been a pleasure working with Down Syndrome Scotland, DSi and of course, the fabulous commissioners Stuart, Andrew and Sam, to bring the World Congress to Glasgow.”