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Community Impact

Bullying Prevention on International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2023

Two female students stand back to back while giving the thumbs up sign.

Students with disabilities are 2 – 3 times more likely to be bullied in school. That is why Special Olympics is shining a spotlight on bullying prevention for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2023.

Celebrated on 3 December each year, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) was established by the United Nations in 1992 “to promote an understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.”

The UN’s theme for 2023 is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] for, with and by persons with disabilities.” The UN reports that the SDGs for people with disabilities lag far behind targets set to achieve meaningful inclusion by 2030. In fact, research shows progress in this area has stalled since the 2015 baseline was set. The SDGs aimed at creating true equity for people with disabilities include:

  • Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Special Olympics has been at the forefront of bullying prevention by promoting Unified activities for people with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) to learn and work together in ways that promote understanding, collaboration and respect. No where is that more apparent than with our global Unified Schools program designed to give students, teachers, administrators and coaches the opportunity create a more inclusive world by bringing school populations together to enjoy sports and learn in a mutually supportive environment. The results speak for themselves:

  • 94% of schools report that Unified Schools made a big impact in reducing bullying, teasing and offensive language in their schools
  • Nearly 100% of students with ID and nine out of ten students without ID indicated that Unified Schools increased a sense of community in their schools
  • 95% of schools report that the program creates a more inclusive school environment, and 85% of participating students report learning how their emotions and attitudes affect others and the importance of standing up for their beliefs

In January 2023, to further the impact of the Unified Schools program, Special Olympics launched the Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The coalition created an alliance of government leaders dedicated to promoting inclusive strategies in education and child welfare through the necessary financial support and policies. Inaugural government Coalition members include: the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar, Jamaica, Mongolia, Montenegro, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Ghana, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Iceland, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Panama, the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.

About Unified Schools

Special Olympics Unified Schools promote meaningful social inclusion by bringing young people with and without intellectual disability (ID) together to create school communities that are accepting of all students using an inclusive sports model, Special Olympics Unified Sports®. Special Olympics has expanded Unified Schools programming in 22 countries around the world through the Play Unified: Learn Unified initiative supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

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