My name is Nima Sadeghi. I’m from Toronto, Ontario, and my older brother Omid has Trisomy 21 (commonly known as Down syndrome). One day while out with some friends, I noticed many people around me using the word “retarded” in colloquial and trivial ways. This wasn’t necessarily because they’re ‘bad people’, but more so because many people either don’t understand the negative weight the word carries or use it out of stubborn thoughtlessness. In any event, there isn’t an occasion to use the term or label something as “retarded”. And it’s about time we squashed it. Because I don’t look at my brother and think of a label. He’s just slightly different than you or I.
An avid doodler and creative person, Omid once drew “Trisomy 21” on a piece of paper, which I put in my wallet and carried around with me everywhere. As someone personally connected to the disorder and a common advocate against the derogatory use of the word “retard”, I knew there was more that could be said and done about it. So, I put Omid’s handwriting on a t-shirt and started wearing it around because I wanted people to know I’m proud of him and all he’s been able to achieve despite his disorder. It wasn’t until people started asking what the writing on my t-shirt meant and if they could buy a shirt themselves did I think Omid and I were onto something. Not only did this apparel give me the opportunity to drive awareness and better understanding about the disorder, it allowed Omid to gain a sense of creative fulfillment by seeing our peers represent his own handwriting on our shirts.
Why are there two dots above Trisomy? Because Omid accidentally added a second dot while writing the word. I kept it like that anyway because he doesn’t need to be perfect, and I’m proud of him just the way he is.
In thinking about the little wins experienced just by wearing Omid’s t-shirt, I realized there must be other individuals like Omid who could benefit from having their creativity materialized and the opportunity to change the world around them in their own unique way. So, what started as a couple meaningful t-shirts and growing group of advocates, came a much larger idea.