Woman with Down syndrome outlines discrimination in powerful TikTok

Charlotte Woodward’s video has people in disbelief.

Woodward is a woman with Down syndrome. She also works as a community outreach associate for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).

So, as she explained to In The Know, the issues she discussed in her now-viral video were “very personal.” The clip, created by the NDSS and shared on its TikTok account, details the institutional discrimination that people with Down syndrome face throughout their lives.

“Things about having Down syndrome that don’t make sense,” Woodward says at the start of the clip.


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She then goes on to give several examples. The first of those: being paid sub-minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, it is currently legal to pay people less than minimum wage if their “productive capacity is impaired by a physical or mental disability.”

Another issue? Penalties for getting married. As Woodward points out in the clip, people with Down syndrome can lose eligibility for government benefits (like Medicaid) if they have a spouse.

Ashley Helsing, the NDSS’s director of government relations, told In The Know these benefits are “very important” for healthcare and other support.

“People who rely on these benefits have to choose between marrying the person they love … and very likely losing their benefits because of it,” she added.

That fact seemed to particularly shock TikTok users. Woodward’s video, which now has more than 2.8 million views, spawned hundreds of comments reacting to the “appalling” info.

“I didn’t know any of this. Thank you for spreading awareness,” one commenter wrote.

Helsing said she’s not surprised by how many people were unaware of the issues in the clip. To her, that’s why the video has been so successful.

“We really started [our] TikTok to educate people on these very important issues that they might not know about,” she told In The Know. “I think that’s one reason Charlotte’s video has been so successful because these are issues that people aren’t aware of.”

Woodward, meanwhile, said the experience of going viral has been “mind-blowing.” Above all though, she saw the TikTok as an opportunity to outline struggles she’s had in her own life.

For example, she said wants to get married one day, which could mean a tough decision about her benefits. Also, she’s received an organ transplant, a procedure that, according to the NDSS, can be difficult for those with Down syndrome to attain.

“I was one of the lucky few,” she told In The Know. “Too often, people with Down syndrome who need an organ transplant aren’t given that option.”

Helsing said she believes the video is making an impact though. She told In The Know that the NDSS has been “thrilled” by the response, with countless TikTok users reaching out directly and asking how they can help.

“It’s the best possible outcome,” she told In The Know.

If you’d like to know more about the issues in Woodward’s video, check out the NDSS’s legislative priorities page.

More from In The Know:

TikToker Chrissy Marshall uses her experience as a deaf woman to educate millions

Deaf, transgender model Chella Man shares how to be a better ally for people with disabilities

Netflix’s new show, “Love on the Spectrum,” highlights the dating lives of people with autism

Blind skateboarder Ryusei Ouchi has never let his disability hold him back

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