The popular ITV soap is to feature a storyline depicting Laurel and Jai grappling with a decision to abort their child after a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome.
Trailblazer and rising catwalk star Kate Grant, who has Down’s syndrome, has hit out at the programme makers for reinforcing outdated attitudes about the genetic condition.
The 22-year-old from Cookstown said: “I go to college, I have friends, I have a career as a model and have walked both London and Belfast Fashion Week.
“I have been an ambassador for the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, I have presented an award at the American Influencer Awards in Hollywood, I have spoken at the UN in Geneva, I have been an ambassador for Benefit Makeup. I have been in one of River Island’s TV commercials, I have been a cover girl on a magazine.
“I am sassy, fun and a girly girl who loves glitz and glam but also cosy pamper nights in my pyjamas with my mum and sister.
“I love life and life loves me and this is my right, a right that I have because my parents made the decision that I was enough, that I mattered and I do. All people with Down’s syndrome matter and have a right to life. Please don’t show the world any different.
“I am Kate Grant and I am a model – Down’s syndrome doesn’t define me.”
Emmerdale bosses are facing growing calls to bin the controversial storyline, with a petition calling for it to be scrapped so far attracting tens of thousands of signatures.
Margaret Watson (44), whose 10-year-old Luciah has Down’s syndrome, has expressed her disappointment that such a popular programme is promoting the position that a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome should be regarded as negative and urged anyone who receives such a diagnosis to speak to parents of children with the condition.
She said: “I wouldn’t change Luciah for the world,” said the mum-of-three from Lisburn.
“It makes me so sad because a lot of the information available to parents of children with Down’s syndrome is so outdated.
“Emmerdale has millions of viewers and this storyline could really cause additional distress for people out there who are finding out they have a baby with Down’s syndrome.
“When we found out Luciah had Down’s syndrome, we were told she would probably never walk or talk which isn’t the case, we were told that people with Down’s syndrome have a life expectancy into their 20s, when they live to be 60 or 70.
“Even if you look Down’s syndrome up on the internet, the information is so negative yet Luciah and all the other children with Down’s syndrome that I know bring their families so much joy.”