Center for Inclusive Health
Everyone has the same right to health. Don't wait for someone else to make it happen.
Homepage Lede Image - Kang Le of Special Olympics Virginia Runs on a Track During an Event
Why Inclusive Health
  • /inˈklo͞osiv
    Inclusive Health: The inclusion of all people, including people with intellectual disabilities (ID), in mainstream health policies and laws, programming, and services, training programs, research, and funding streams.

    People with intellectual disabilities are one of the largest and most medically underserved populations. Because of a range of systemic challenges, including inadequate provider training and inaccessible facilities, they have less access to quality health care and health promotion programs. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death. Read our FAQ.

Inclusive Health Overview
Everyone has the same right to health. Learn why inclusive health is needed and why it takes a collective effort to make it happen.
Inclusive Health Overview
Growing the Movement: Inclusive Health Summit
On June 30, 2018, Special Olympics partnered with the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to host the first ever Inclusive Health Summit, bringing together more than 300 public health leaders to launch the Center for Inclusive Health and grow the inclusive health movement.
Growing the Movement: Inclusive Health Summit
While there have been improvements over the years, the fact remains that people with intellectual disabilities still face significant health disparities – not associated with their conditions but the result of inadequate access to services and programs.
"People with ID deserve to live happy, healthy lives like anyone else, yet they suffer from greater disparities and lack of services. If we want to make an impact on health equity, this is a group we must include."
-Alex Handfinger, Cooking Matters Director, Arkansas Hunger Alliance
Norway Athlete 2017 World Games
All people – with or without intellectual disabilities – should have equitable access to quality health care, education and services in their communities. Special Olympics aims to strengthen the capacity of health organizations, providers, educators, and influencers to make policies, programming, services, research, trainings and funding streams inclusive and accommodating of people with intellectual disabilities.
Meeting the health needs for people with intellectual disabilities would reduce disparities, lower health care costs and ensure social justice. Learn more
Getting Started Lede
Get Started
This work cannot be done alone, or by only one sector of the health system. It is dependent on broad, cross-sector collaboration. Are you ready to become an Inclusive Health Champion?
"All professional organizations in the health arena need to commit to Inclusive Health in an intentional, sustained, and expanding manner."
-James R. Whitehead CEO and Executive Vice President, American College of Sports Medicine
Organizations across the public health system can take action to remove barriers and improve access for people with ID to their services, as their patients, customers, beneficiaries, and clients.

The foundational principles of Inclusive Health are: Equitable Access and Full Participation. Equitable Access means ensuring that people have access to the services and resources necessary to achieve their full health potential. Full Participation means that people with ID are fully and meaningfully included in health programs and services.

Here are the four strategies to help you start:
Welcoming Spaces

Ensuring your programs and physical spaces are accessible and welcoming to people with ID:

 Incorporate disability etiquette, including for intellectual disability, into internal staff training.
 Speak directly to the individual, not his or her companion, and let the person finish before responding.
 If you offer assistance, wait for the offer to be accepted and for specific instructions. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask.
 If you are having difficulty understanding a person, it is ok to ask them to repeat themselves.
 Operate under the assumption that people with ID are capable of making their own decisions.
 Explore how using Universal Design may be applied to your services or organization.
 Ensure your space or programs are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Ensuring your communications, including written and spoken language, materials, and interactions with the community are accessible to people with ID:

 Use accessible language.
 Written materials should be in plain language, at no more than a sixth-grade reading level.
 Language should get to the point and avoid jargon, acronyms, and abstract statements.
 Provide in-person assistance to ensure individuals understand materials and are able to complete forms.
 Include images of people with intellectual disabilities in your promotional materials.
 Materials should also be available in other accessible formats like braille and large type.

Awareness and Training

Understanding your community and training your staff on the barriers and challenges faced by people with ID, including on how to remove them:

 Train staff and leaders on the barriers faced by people with ID and methods for how to overcome those barriers.
 Hire people with ID to provide input on and/or conduct the training.

Sustainable and Intentional Inclusion

Building intentional and sustainable inclusion by changing organizational culture to value and understand inclusion:

 Embed inclusion into your organizational culture.
 Incorporate disability rights and access into company policies and mission statements, including diversity statements.
 Incorporate inclusion into each program, service, or activity you offer.
 Partner with local disability organizations to learn how you can improve your inclusive practices.
 Include people with ID in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs, services, or activities.
 Hire people with ID to work at your organization in a meaningful capacity, both as a way of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion and as an effective way to increase awareness of the need for inclusive practices.

RFA Lead Image.jpg
Grant Opportunities
Special Olympics International (SOI) is pleased to announce an extension for applications for the 2019 Inclusive Health Innovation Grant opportunity. These small grants, up to $25,000 per grant for a period of performance of up to 12 months, reflect SOI’s commitment to improving access to mainstream health services in the United States for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Applications are due by November 30, 2018.

Foundational strategies apply across all sectors of the public health system, for more information specific to your sector, please explore the audience pages below. More audiences coming soon!
Every health care provider should be trained to care for people with intellectual disabilities and do their part to ensure equitable access to quality health care for patients with intellectual disabilities
All people with intellectual disabilities should have access to and meaningful participation in fitness and wellness programs and activities
Every professional association should commit to addressing the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities and provide their members with the necessary training to be more inclusive.
About Us
  • Special Olympics is the world's largest sport and public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities. We strive to make health systems fully inclusive to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are able to lead healthy and meaningful lives. To contact us email

    We'd like to thank the following contributors: Abby Wolfe, American Association on Health and Disability, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Elaine Eisenbaum (University of Kentucky), Heather Parker (LiveWell Solutions, LLC), Rachel Patterson (Health Management Associates), and Priya Chandan (University of Louisville).

Thank you for joining the Inclusion Revolution
Get Involved
Stay up to date with the latest news and resources.