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Lessons From 2021 Move Us Closer to An Inclusive 2022

Some people may be glad that 2021 is in the past and happily threw the December 2021 calendar page into the recycling bin. It was a year of extra challenges for everybody and divisiveness about how to meet these challenges. But all was not lost when it comes to the Inclusion Revolution movement.

LESSON LEARNED: Think Globally

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the whole world with new challenges. If a person thinks deeply and thinks beyond just oneself, you realize that many of the world’s inhabitants always face new challenges and need support. The disability community is not unique in this regard. If we really think about things and think globally, we will always see that everybody must adapt and needs acceptance.

Two Special Olympics athletes pose for a picture.
Hanna (left) and Daniel (right) have both found meaningful employment with United Airlines.

LESSON LEARNED: Inclusion Goes on Despite Pandemic

In 2021, even though the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging, some people, in this case United Airlines, figured out a way to move forward with inclusion. In partnership with Special Olympics, United began the expansion of the Service Ambassador program. The Service Ambassador program highlights the importance of inclusive employment. Instead of waiting for a questionable return to normalcy, United and Special Olympics expanded with new hires in Denver and Houston. One of these new hires is my fellow SSIGM, Hanna Atkinson. Hanna, because of this employment opportunity, will no doubt agree that 2021 brought a step forward for inclusion. The lesson learned from 2021 is that people can be creative, even in extra challenging times, about making the world more inclusive.

LESSON LEARNED: Inclusion Starts with Stories

The podcasts I have hosted have connected me with others who share their stories. That’s been more important in 2021 because there have been fewer in-person sporting events. Sharing people’s stories is one of the fundamental steps towards inclusion. For example, I broadcast a conversation with Jack Mayor, a young man with autism who is an ambassador for Best Buddies and a ComEd EnergyForce Ambassador. Jack shared his story about the power of friendship and inclusion as he spread the message of Best Buddies in schools, the community, and the workforce. One lesson learned from 2021 is to never stop taking interest in people's stories.

A graphic shows an individual standing behind a podium delivering a speech along with a message to listen to a new podcast episode.

2022 will no doubt confront us with lessons to be learned that will help us drive inclusion in all the years to come. Join me in making the world more inclusive and take the pledge today.

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