Copyright © Special Olympics
The Special Olympics Project UNIFY aims to inspire youth to promote the notion in school communities that all youth are agents of change. The organization does this through Special Olympics’ sports and education initiatives. It hopes that these agents of chance can foster respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.
Project UNIFY represents acceptance, unity, friendship, and fun. It is a youth driven project that is sponsored by the United States Department of Education. The project aims to eradicate the social and environmental walls to inclusion at the youth level. It has chosen young people to spearhead the project, as it believes that children can use Special Olympics sports and related activities to make an impact on friendships, schools, and communities.
Project UNIFY and its core programs including Spread the Word to End the Word®, Unified Sports®, Get Into It®, and Young Athletes® have reached across most states in the United States. Currently with its 38 active US state programs, Project UNIFY has reached over 1,700 schools and engaged more than 600,000 young people.
One of Project UNIFY’s most influential project is the one to end the use of the word ‘retard(ed)’. The campaign has asked people to stop using that word, as it is offensive, and derogatory. The work of this project has influenced the federal government in 2010 to sign into law a bill that results in federal health, education, and labor policy removing the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in favor of people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability”.
In recent years, the Special Olympics has worked with Best Buddies International on certain projects. In 2008, the two groups teamed up together to spread the End the R-Word campaign. In March of this year, participants from both programs ranging from 41 US states “stormed” Capital Hill to call for the federal government to continue their support for programs for the disabled.