In Arras, France, a city council member is making history as the city’s public official in charge of inclusion and happiness. Éléonore Laloux is the first and only person with Down syndrome to be elected to public office in the country.
Laloux was recently awarded membership in the National Order of Merit for her efforts to bring inclusion and accessibility to all aspects of government. She draws on her personal lived experience to implement innovative projects including a virtual tour of a local belfry, verbal instructions at crosswalks, and more visible street signs.
“For me, people with disabilities, visible or invisible, are full members of society and have the right to have the same access as everyone else,” said Laloux.
In addition to heading into her second term on the city council, Laloux also works as a spokesperson for Les Amis d’Eléonore, an organization that works with parents of children with Down syndrome, and is a board member for Down Up, a nonprofit which advocates for recognition for those with intellectual disabilities.
Fellow city council members report that Laloux has brought a much-needed freshness and new perspective to local government initiatives. In the case of the belfry tour, Laloux’s unique perspective allowed her to identify how the inaccessible stairs of the building could prevent some visitors from fully enjoying it.
Moving forwards, she is working on implementing the city’s first dog park and implementing “nudges,” a Dutch concept in which citizens are encouraged to engage in fun ways to take care of their city─like putting a basketball hoop above a public trash can.
Image source: The Times