Lara holding a drawn sign with people of differing abilities, labelled "I #Choose to Include". Inclusion. Spark Solutions.

Building Inclusion in Sport

Happy Global Week of Inclusion! The Special Olympics Global Week of Inclusion initiative is to show the world that we are better together and to combat isolation and exclusion. This was important before, but is especially important now that COVID-19 has required us to self-isolate to keep everyone safe. Support the Global Week of Inclusion by taking a photo of yourself with a #ChooseToInclude sign (which you can make or can download from the Special Olympics website). Then post your photo to social media with the #ChooseToInclude hashtag. You may win prizes! Also, take the the Inclusion Pledge. The pledge states that you will look out for the lonely, the isolated, the left out, the challenged, and the bullied. Join me, #ChooseToInclude, and take the pledge.

Defining Inclusion

Inclusion is “the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Inclusion is different from accessibility in that accessibility is simply access, while inclusion is integration. Accessibility is important, and although we have been striving for accessibility for awhile, sport is making its move to be fully inclusive. This means offering programming and opportunities for athletes with disabilities. This also means having people with disabilities participating in the same programs as those without disabilities.

Programs in Play

When I worked at Saskatchewan Soccer, I was proud to support Estevan Youth Soccer and Weyburn Soccer in their development and delivery of all abilities programs within their membership. Their programs were really well received and both organizations had plans to expand their programming this year.

Saskatchewan Soccer produced a promotional video to expand awareness about the benefits of these programs. Two elements of this promotional video strike me as particularly notable. The first is when Heather, a mother of one of the participants, describes that it brings her family and friends joy when they can come cheer for her son with disabilities, just like her other kids. The second is when Tyler, the coach of the program, demonstrates that you coach according to the needs of the participant. That’s really it- it’s a program like every other program, but it’s tailored to the participants and their needs (like you would any other program).

From Accessibility to Inclusion

However, offering adaptive programming is accessibility, not quite inclusion. This is great stuff, but can we also adjust our operations to include participants with disabilities into our main programming? And beyond that, how do we build inclusion into our programming, and embed inclusion into our organization? To do this, we need to consider our organizations more broadly. This includes the size and colour of the font on our websites, our promotional materials, the facilities we use, and our equipment.

I #ChooseToInclude because I know that physical activity and sport supports optimum health and quality of life, and this is no exception for people with disabilities. To ensure that inclusion is fully integrated within your organization, it requires forethought, planning, and strategic execution. I would love to support sport organizations to develop inclusion strategies within their organizations, so that all members of the community can fully participate in sport. Is this something you would like to do but don’t know where to start? Reach out and let’s discuss how we can #ChooseToInclude.

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