SOBC Athlete Reporters share why inclusion matters

Special Olympics athletes at a Dueck Auto Group event in 2017
Miranda Orth with Special Olympics athletes and community members at a Dueck Auto Group fundraiser in 2017.

In the Special Olympics Global Week of Inclusion, several Special Olympics BC Athlete Reporters shared powerful stories about why it’s important for everyone to #ChooseToInclude. Learn from the insights by Jake Miller, Miranda Orth, and Samantha Taylor.

Jake Miller, SOBC – Trail

Miller profiled a Champion of Inclusion: his supervisor Brian at Ferraro Foods, Miller’s longtime employer.

This Champion of Inclusion is my supervisor. His name is Brian. I have worked for FERRARO FOODS in Trail for the last 5 years. 

They include me, like every other employee. I have to work hard. They Choose to Include and it makes me happy.

More on the Global Week of Inclusion

Miranda Orth, SOBC – Nanaimo

I would say inclusion is important because people who are intellectually challenged, like myself, are quite often ignored in many areas like team sports, due to lack of understanding that they have a disability and want to be heard along with being treated like ordinary people.  

For example, I had been put in a specific classroom with other students with intellectual challenges in high school and couldn’t be included in other classes that had students without intellectual challenges. I wanted to try an athletics club there and when I asked my teacher about it, they wouldn’t let me. That was even though I knew at the time I could join.

Special Olympics, I sense, is a way for me to be comfortable socializing with other people at social events and sports, knowing nobody judges me when I talk just because of having a medical condition. It also makes me really enjoy advocating more about trying to break down the disability barrier and not be waiting on the sidelines for something to happen. 

Everyone should choose to include, especially in sports, because a person intellectually challenged feels they don’t have to think about the condition they have when doing something they really enjoy doing.  I mostly forget that I have an intellectual disability when I exercise by myself or with a couple other people, as I really enjoy doing that kind of activity. 

So, when you choose to include, you choose to get to know people, whether it’s at job interview, at a social event, or doing sports!

Samantha Taylor, SOBC – Kelowna

Inclusion is the act of including someone, not only for children with special needs and their families, but it’s also for adults with special needs and their families. When we include children and adults with diversabilities, they learn acceptance from other people, and that each person has unique abilities. 

We all learn from each other. How can we learn from each other if we don’t have the option to be included?
With inclusion in place, children and adults with diversabilities are being provided equal opportunity to participate in activities and programs, just the same as someone without a disability.

Benefits of inclusion

Some of the benefits of inclusion are: friendship skills, positive self image, and respect for others, just to name a few. 

Inclusion is not just encouraging people. It requires making sure there are adequate practices in effect in a community or organization. Inclusion should lead to increased participation in socially expected life roles and activities such as being a student, working, being a friend, and being part of a community. 

Inclusion means finding belonging. It’s about giving equal access and opportunities, and getting red of discrimination. It affects all aspects of public life. Inclusion is involvement and empowerment. It also is an opportunity to develop friendships, and positive attitudes toward oneself and others. 

Inclusion is not clustering people with disabilities to one home to share, one classroom, one workplace or social centre. Its’s not giving special privileges to people with diversabilities. It’s also not feeling sorry for someone with special needs.

Inclusion is important

It’s important because it mold the values of the next generation You see the person first and who they are, not the disability. You learn empathy and value diversity. Inclusion is important to develop a comfortable way to interact with people that have diversabilities. Inclusion prepares individuals for adult life. 

Everyone benefits from inclusion. Inclusion includes visible and invisible disabilities. Visible disabilities include someone with Down syndrome, someone in a wheelchair, or someone with a guide dog. Invisible disabilities include mental illness, learning difficulties, or brain injuries. 

I know myself being someone with a learning difficulty it’s harder to find a job, often it’s harder to find friends, and even attend school because I learn slower at times. I often feel judged and feel like no one cares. That is why inclusion is important.

To some, inclusion means having someone that cares enough to ask them to join in an activity. It’s important because it makes you feel like you matter. Inclusion also means that you feel accepted in your own family to be included in family plans. It’s accepting others for who they are and allowing everyone to be included no matter their gender, race, religion, or ability.

People with diversabilities want to be able to socialize, have friends, and be part of their community. People with diversabilities often have few friends and experience social exclusion. So let’s go make people feel included and show them that we care.

Would you go out today and make at least one person feel included.

SOBC Athlete Reporters

SOBC Athlete Reporters have completed training on storytelling, technology use, and social media in order to help share Special Olympics voices and stories. This SOBC Athlete Leadership course was created in 2018 by SOBC – Victoria volunteers and professional journalists Andrea Boyes and Tess van Straaten. 

Stay tuned for more from province-wide Athlete Reporters! Thanks to all for their efforts!

MORE ATHLETE REPORTER STORIES

About SOBC Athlete Leadership programs

Special Olympics Athlete Leadership programs offer training to help athletes succeed and inspire through leadership and speaking roles inside and outside the movement. These programs are proven to have a lasting benefit to participants by increasing confidence and self-esteem, and a lasting benefit to Special Olympics as these athlete leaders provide invaluable feedback and insights.

“Athlete Leadership is life changing. It can change the way you see things, and how you communicate with others, to have the courage to stand for others and be on the front lines. It creates leaders.” 
–Nyasha Derera, Chair, Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress

If you have questions or feedback about SOBC Athlete Leadership, please contact SOBC Community Development Coordinator Chelsea Rogers at 604-802-4226 or crogers@specialolympics.bc.ca.