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Special Olympics and American Council on Exercise Form Partnership

Man in wheelchair holding himself up and woman is timing him with a stopwatch.
ACE promoted Special Olympics fitness assessments to help fitness professionals meet the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities during a March 2023 social media campaign.

Special Olympics and ACE (American Council on Exercise) have partnered to build awareness and capacity within the fitness industry to support the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). ACE educates and supports health and fitness professionals with evidence-based resources to inspire people to lead healthy, active lives. Special Olympics is excited to join them to support people with IDD to do the same by promoting inclusive community-based fitness programs. ACE builds meaningful and collaborative relationships with policymakers, industry experts, and community leaders to collectively advocate for the power of physical activity as preventative health. As part of this partnership, Special Olympics and ACE will increase fitness education, training, and certification among people with IDD to lead inclusive fitness education in gyms or fitness centers. This collaboration will develop educational and advocacy efforts to promote access to physical activity for people with IDD.

ACE and Special Olympics both share a commitment to training fitness professionals to meet the fitness needs of people with IDD. The partnership will further promote the free ACE Special Olympics Inclusive Fitness Training course developed in 2021 which helps fitness professionals understand and address the barriers that many individuals with IDD face in accessing appropriate fitness programs. These barriers include inadequate facilities, lack of appropriate programming, transportation, and financial restraints. Further, ACE and Special Olympics will develop opportunities for people with IDD to receive fitness training opportunities, and to promote the dissemination of tips and strategies to support people with IDD in accessing and participating in fitness programs.

“Special Olympics is excited to partner with ACE to ensure that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are meaningfully included within the fitness industry. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities, derive significant physical and mental health benefits from participating in physical activity and fitness programs and yet their participation has been hampered by unnecessary barriers. This partnership aims to alleviate those barriers and to enable individuals with IDD to access physical activity opportunities in countless gyms, fitness centers and homes across the country.”
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, Chief Health Officer at Special Olympics

ACE has long been committed to inclusion. In addition to ACE’s Special Olympics Inclusive Fitness course, ACE also collaborated with Special Olympics to create a social media series on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook that highlighted fitness assessments and fitness program design strategies to support working with clients with IDD.

“ACE is honored to partner with Special Olympics to help build capacity for physical activity leaders through the training and education of individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities who want to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of communities. We are committed to making the health and fitness more inclusive, and we believe that all people deserve access to programs and interventions and have the opportunity to participate in exercise and physical activity.”
Graham Melstrand, ACE Executive Vice President of Community Health and Wellness

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