A 44-year-old woman has become the first Australian with Down’s syndrome to graduate from university.
Ten years of hard work and perseverance paid off for Rachel High when she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and screen studies from Flinders University in Adelaide.
She hopes her achievement proves that, with appropriate support, academic success is possible for those with the condition, saying studying “has really changed my world and my life”.
Fitting in socially was the biggest challenge for Rachel and it almost pushed her to give up.
“It wasn’t the learning that was the issue, it was the isolation that was the issue”, she said.
Her mother, Miriam, reflected: “Young students aren’t there to look after a middle-aged person with Down syndrome”, but added: “She’s determined and she does get on and do things”.
Rachel’s final paper was supervised by Professor Sally Robinson who said that universities had a long way to go to better support students with intellectual disabilities.
She called for changed attitudes and raised expectations “that people with intellectual disability can succeed at university”.
“Rachel shows us how possible that is.”
In the UK, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons – but is available up to birth for children deemed to have a disability.
This has been used to justify abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome. Around 92 per cent of those diagnosed with the condition in Great Britain are aborted.