Special Olympics Great Britain has unveiled its exciting new campaign, Play Unified, aimed at changing perceptions of and attitudes towards young people with intellectual (learning) disabilities.
Delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, funded by DCMS and jointly administered by DCMS and Sport England, Play Unified aims to break down barriers that exist for people with intellectual disabilities – both on and off the pitch.
To launch the campaign, Play Unified is set to host eight regional Youth Summits across the UK, kicked off in Manchester at Old Trafford in April.
The summits will empower young people with and without disabilities to become leaders in their schools, creating positive change and providing more opportunities for young people to take part in sport.
With young people aged 14-25 at its core, Play Unified will be rolled out in 200 schools nationwide over the next two years, involving more than 18,000 young people.
Play Unified is inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to understanding, acceptance and friendship – a principle that will be central to every summit.
The summits will educate, activate and motivate Play Unified’s Young Ambassadors through a series of practical team-building activities.
High profile Athlete Mentors including Paralympic swimmer Kate Grey and Olympic 100m finalist Jeanette Kwakye, who have themselves overcome adversity to succeed, will also attend the Play Unified summits, highlighting sport’s capacity to change lives and perceptions.
Sitting within Play Unified is a project called Unified Sports which puts people with and without disability on the same field of play and sits wholly within the goal of creating greater understanding of people with intellectual disabilities and their ability and aspirations. The Unified Sports project is bringing together 80 schools (both special schools and secondary mainstream) to work collaboratively in order to deliver school-based ‘Unified Sports’ programmes. Unified Sports will be supported by Thierry Henry’s One4ALL Foundation.
Karen Wallin, CEO of Special Olympics GB said: “We are thrilled to partner with the Youth Sport Trust to work collaboratively and drive inclusive practice through school sport. It will challenge perceptions and attitudes about young people with intellectual disabilities. Play Unified is a global Special Olympics campaign aimed at breaking down the barriers and misconceptions towards people with intellectual disabilities. Through this campaign we hope to inspire attitudes that lead to activity with our Special Olympics athletes rather than an approach of doing things FOR our athletes. People with intellectual disabilities say they want to be included as equals in society. The Unified Generation will lead our movement and will do so by simply playing unified.”
Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, commented: “The Special Olympics GB Play Unified Summits delivered by the Youth Sport Trust provide a unique opportunity to inspire and empower young people with and without disabilities to become leaders in their schools, creating positive change and developing more opportunities for young people to take part in sport.
“Through these summits we will use the power of sport to provide a platform for young people to understand and value their peers with intellectual disabilities, build their confidence and give them the opportunity make new friends. Ultimately we want to create a unified generation.”