- Published on 20 May 2015
In a Unified basketball game between host Egypt and Algeria, Esraa Hussien of Egypt looks up before shooting. Basketball was one of several sports played thatfeatured teams of people with and without intellectual disabilities.
Team sports bring people together. Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams do that, too and much more. Half a million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in a really fun way.
Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability, which makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all. Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.
U.S. States Embracing Unified Sports
Young people with disabilities don't often get a chance to play on their school sports teams, but more and more U.S. states are adopting the unified sports approach that Special Olympics pioneered. The governor of New Jersey just signed a bill into law that encourages schools to make opportunities for sports participation available to all students. Special Olympics New Jersey, which championed the new law, is cited in the new law as a consulting organization. For almost 20 years, Special Olympics has offered sport teams that blend people with and without intellectual disabilities, and that is a model that encourages sports and fun, and which also gets people together to learn more about each other. Read more about the new law in our press release.
Building Unified Sports With ESPN and Disney
The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics have announced a two-year global initiative that will leverage the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance through the Special Olympics Unified Sports program. With a multi-million dollar financial and in-kind investment, Disney and ESPN will support Special Olympics’ goal of registering one million Unified Sports participants--athletes with intellectual disabilities, teammates without intellectual disabilities and coaches--by 2015. Read more about this exciting news.
In addition, thanks to the generosity of Special Olympics Board Member Kim Samuel and her family’s foundation, Special Olympics has been able to build capacity for Unified Sports through technology, enhanced education materials and seed grants to Special Olympics Programs that would not otherwise have the funds to start or expand Unified Sports.