Athletes as Self-Advocates
Special Olympics athletes, serving as self-advocates, educated lawmakers and their staff about the significant consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care and education. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to effectively convey the high impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues, to educate lawmakers and to secure continued support from legislators.
“No one can better articulate a vision for how America can become a more inclusive nation or demonstrate what it means to unite and come together than the athletes and Unified Partners of Special Olympics” said Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. Shriver added, “We support the preservation of laws that guarantee the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”
In more than 4,400 Unified Champion Schools across the country, Special Olympics has trained and mobilized youth leaders and educators to create more inclusive schools by including students with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of school life. Students with and without intellectual disabilities are also playing and competing together, on the same team, through Special Olympics Unified Sports. These experiences are helping to increase acceptance of all abilities to classrooms across the country, and are reducing stigma and bullying. Health exams, treatment and referrals (vision, hearing, dentistry, podiatry, and mobility), and education, including nutrition, are being provided to Special Olympics athletes at Games and competitions to ensure their health on the playing field. Thousands of volunteers, staff and clinical practitioners are providing essential health care that is otherwise often unavailable to people with intellectual disabilities due to the lack of trained health care providers and facilities. These volunteers are learning new skills that are helping the medical community to reach people with intellectual disabilities in their own communities with critical health care.