I am extremely passionate about disability sport and feel that everyone should have the same opportunities to take part and succeed. From personal experience I have seen how people sometimes struggle to see past a person’s disability, as is the case with my brother. People don’t see Will first, they see his Down’s Syndrome and perceive he is ‘different’. This has led to him often feeling excluded, isolated and unhappy.
The Youth Sport Trust is working in partnership with Special Olympics Great Britain to deliver a global campaign in schools called Play Unified. With 56% of children with intellectual (learning) disabilities (ID) highlighting they have cried due to bullying, Play Unified aims to empower young people to drive positive social change in their schools by: tackling bullying, promoting equality and forging friendships for young people with and without ID.
Play Unified provides the opportunity to bring young people together and, by placing us with the direct responsibility to bring about change, we are able to create more opportunities for all of us. Opportunities we can all participate in, making new friends along the way both in and outside of school. I passionately believe that we all deserve the same opportunities and should treat each other the same, seeing past our perceived differences because when given a little extra support and opportunity, young people with ID can achieve anything they set their minds to, in the same way others can.
I have set up an inclusive committee in my school with other students where we decide together what we can do in school to change attitudes towards people with ID and ensure that we organise activities that appeal to all of us, such as dance and team sports. Through this work, it has led to a truly memorable moment for me, with my brother and I representing Great Britain on the Special Olympics European Youth Committee; being the voice of young people across Europe and influencing international policy.
At Tadcaster Grammar, this is having a positive impact. It is raising awareness of disability and challenging attitudes, promoting co-leadership, giving opportunities to succeed, improving self esteem, reducing bullying, promoting inclusion and improving the school environment. It is a huge privilege to be part of this exciting initiative – shaping all of our futures, creating a unified generation and ensuring young people with disabilities are included.
Last month, I was one of 20 young people worldwide awarded a Legacy Award from Princes William and Harry at St James’ Palace. I was so honoured to receive this award and it has inspired me to continue to talk about inclusion and make a difference.
- 72% of schools involved globally have observed that Play Unified has helped raise awareness of students with disabilities in their school community
- 63% of schools felt that Play Unified has made a big impact in creating a more inclusive school environment
- 89% of young people felt they had a more positive view of people with intellectual disabilities following their involvement
- 87% of young people, both with and without ID, felt more positive about their own abilities since being involved.
- 70% of people who viewed it, said that this video made them feel differently about ID
- 200 schools have engaged with the Play Unified programme that the Youth Sport Trust and Special Olympics Great Britain have delivered which has reached 15,000 young people.
At the Youth Sport Trust we are continuing to strive to take positive action in supporting young people with additional needs; to ensure every young person gets a happy, meaningful and progressive journey through school.”
Vicci Wells, Inclusive Programme Manager, Youth Sport Trust