Caley Versfelt, 26, captured young men and women in California who were born with the genetic disorder.
She was keen to show people living with the disease were still high functioning and played a vital role in their community. Her 12 subjects ranged in age from teenagers to people in their late 30s and were all part of a dance class. They included an actor, a practicing Buddhist, a writer and a restaurant host.
Ms Versfelt, from Manhattan Beach, said: ‘People assume I can’t do things but I prove them wrong because we have abilities like everybody else. ‘I have a really good eye for photography. I see something and I take a picture of it so I can share it with my family. It’s a way to express myself. ‘I’m someone who is very likable so they didn’t mind if I asked them for a photo. It is really easy – I put them at ease.’ Ms Versfelt, who is also a pageant queen, public speaker, poet and rights activist, said it took great patience to take photos and she always wanted to make sure she got the right angle. She added: ‘With my photos I want to promote acceptance and inclusion and that we have lives and desires and hopes too. ‘Down’s Syndrome is our ability, not our disability.’
Her mum Shail Versfelt, 59, who works in the entertainment industry and is married to Tom, VP of North America sales for Epson, said: ‘Caley has a lot of heart and compassion. ‘She wants the world to see people with disabilities as having abilities. ‘Just because someone has special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have a good caliber of life. ‘This was a way to celebrate World Down’s Syndrome Day and to spread acceptance and inclusion so that people with Down’s Syndrome are viewed as people.’
Ms Versfelt was approached the take the photos for an exhibition on World Down’s Syndrome Day on March 21, by pageant Miss Amazing, which she will compete in as the representative of California. The organisation highlights the strengths of girls and women with disabilities. Jordan Somer, the pageant’s executive director, added: ‘It’s incredibly important that women with disabilities are the ones leading conversations about their lives and experiences.’ For more information visit here.
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