Elected in March 2020 as “delegated advisor for Inclusive Transition and Happiness” in Arras, Northern France, Éléonore Laloux has this month been recognised as a Knight of the Order of Merit.
Éléonore Laloux helps us all reassess how we see “disability”
Éléonore Laloux (36) is the first woman with Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) to become a municipal councillor in France. Elected "delegated advisor for inclusive transition and happiness" in March 2020 in Arras, in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, Laloux has this month been recognised as a Knight of the Order of Merit.
"I hope that my example will serve as an example to other cities in France to show that people with disabilities can work in an ordinary environment and that they have a place in society.” says Mlle. Laloux.
Laloux Is entering her second term on the city council
In the town of Arras in northern France, the country’s first ever appointed official with Down syndrome is leading from the front, and bringing a new perspective on neurodiversity.
In March of 2020, Éléonore Laloux was appointed municipal councillor of Arras under the mayor Frédéric Leturque, for which she has received continual praise for her colourful nature, her endless drive to make people happy, and for promoting the inclusivity of all disabled people in society.
In addition to heading into her second term on the city council, Laloux also works as a spokesperson for Les Amis d’Eléonore, an organisation 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.
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.
Laloux, Knight of the Order of Merit, relishes in the joy she sees returning to her constituents
On October 15th, Ms. Laloux officially received membership in the prestigious National Order of Merit, France’s second highest national order after the Legion of Honour.
As she looks ahead to her second of six years in office, Ms. Laloux is not just helping the city rethink what inclusion means, but also changing minds about what it’s like to live with a disability as well as what those with cognitive disabilities are capable of.
“Inclusion isn’t something that we just think about; it’s not a generous act. It’s our duty,” Mr. Leturque, who put forward Ms. Laloux as a candidate last year, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Eléonore has helped the entire town progress in terms of how we see disability.”
Ms. Laloux credits her parents for pushing her to reach her full potential and says they always believed in her. She has lived independently since 2011 in an apartment in Arras and enjoys cooking, theatre, and playing the electric guitar. “I love rock, especially Bob Dylan,” she says.
And aside from the political arena, Ms. Laloux was educated in the mainstream education system, holds a day job, and is integrated into her community.
“She is the perfect example of inclusivity in all areas of life,” says David Leclercq, general director of the disability rights group APEI in nearby Valenciennes. “Her perseverance and tenacity can help others dare to face their own obstacles, as well as find innovative solutions to challenges.”
Now that COVID-19 infections are starting to drop and the country has implemented a mandatory health pass for most public venues, Ms. Laloux relishes in the joy she sees returning to her constituents. After all, her ability to bring happiness to others is one of the reasons she was elected.
“I want to see people happy, out for a drink or at a restaurant, hanging out with friends and family. … I want to put a little colour into life,” says Ms. Laloux. “It feels really nice to have a bit of colour.”
“I hope that my example will serve as an example to other cities in France,”
Laloux told France’s BFMTV, “I am very proud to be the first to receive this distinction in France. And then it was close to my heart because I am from Arras, and I did all my schooling in the city. When Frédéric Leturque, the mayor of Arras, offered me to join his list in March 2020, I took the time to reflect and then accepted. I felt included.
“In fact, I hope that my example will serve as an example to other cities in France to show that people with disabilities can work in an ordinary environment and that they have a place in society.
“For example, I was able to lead a school career from kindergarten to high school in an ordinary environment, and today I work. I would like people with disabilities to be included as I was: after high school, I was able to do continuous training and then I was able to do several internships in different institutions, which went more or less well elsewhere (laughs).”
Laloux has help at work. Technician Ludovic Galland helps her with everyday operations, such as breaking down complex political and strategic jargon, and fellow council member Sylvie Noclercq – Ms. Laloux’s “godmother” of sorts – works with her to prepare for meetings or put a final finesse on her proposals.
10 WAYS TO BE INCLUSIVE
Disability will impact all of us at some point in our lives. You might know someone with a disability, have a child or family member that you care for, or you may gain a disability later in life. Essentially, disability is a part of all of our experiences. This is why we are committed to ensuring that every single person, no matter what the ability, is 100% included and 100% empowered. To achieve this type of a society, everyone has a part to play. Here's some tips about how you can be more inclusive in your daily life.