No matter where you are or what you’re doing, the role that inclusion plays throughout our lives is an important one. Making sure that everyone is able to show up as their real selves and be celebrated is something that our Aerie fam and our friends at Special Olympics are so closely aligned with. To dive deeper, we talked with two Special Olympics team members, Chris and Novie, to learn more about why inclusion is so important and how they’ve witnessed it making an impact in their lives.
What does “inclusion” mean? Are there any misconceptions about it at all?
Novie: It means to include people in all sorts of things in life. Sometimes people don’t think that people with intellectual disabilities can do anything. So they misjudge us or don’t let us be part of a group or be in an event.
Chris: I like to think of inclusion being “full” inclusion…whether that’s in sports, health, school or the workplace. Inclusion can’t just be for an hour on a Saturday in June.
Whether at the workplace, your local community or in marketing, why is inclusion so important?
Novie: Inclusion is so important at work because those are people you are around the most and you can count on them helping you with your job, organizing your desk and understanding what you are supposed to do in your job. In your community, inclusion is important because you are their neighbors and it is important for you and neighbors to support each other.
Chris: Everyone has something to share and contribute. In order to have best perspective on ideas or problems, groups (teams, corporations, schools) should have representation from all parts of society.
What are the advantages of creating an inclusive space?
Novie: The advantages of having inclusion spaces are that it feels safer and makes you enjoy being with those that include you. When you feel excluded, it makes you upset and angry.
Chris: Inclusive spaces lead to more understanding, empathy and a more welcoming environment.
How have you witnessed the act of inclusion impacting someone’s life?
Novie: When I was selected to do a photoshoot for United Airlines with 3 other Special Olympics athletes, we became very close friends and we were honored and proud to be shown in airports all over the nation. It made us all feel prouder of ourselves and more confident to be around other people.
Chris: Another great example from one of our partners comes from ESPN. They have hired several athletes to be part of Special Olympics World Games and Special Olympics USA Games broadcasts. This gives the ESPN employees a better perspective on people with intellectual disabilities while providing an amazing career opportunity and personal growth opportunity for someone with an intellectual disability.
How could someone lend their support to Special Olympics especially during this unique time and beyond?
Novie: They can donate to Special Olympics so they can offer sports to people with intellectual disabilities who may not have the money to otherwise pay for it. They can also volunteer to help coach and be a fan for athletes. They can be a Unified partner so people with intellectual disabilities can be included in everyday life and have important conversations and support.
Chris: This July, you can join us in celebrating champions of inclusion by taking the Inclusion Pledge, nominating a champion in your life, or supporting Special Olympics by purchasing the Better Together tee [link] or donating at the register in stores. On an ongoing basis, people can get involved locally and participate as a Unified partner, organize virtual workouts, provide masks and teach best practices for health. Follow Special Olympics on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to stay up to date.
Learn more about how we celebrated Global Week of Inclusion with the Special Olympics Texas basketball team.