Our Approach
All people – with or without intellectual disabilities – should have equitable access to quality health care, education and services in their communities.
What Is Inclusive Health
  • Inclusive health is the inclusion of those with intellectual disabilities (ID) in mainstream health policies, laws, programming, services, training programs, research, and funding streams.

    Inclusive health means that no door is the wrong one for a person with ID to access health services and programs.

    If a system is inclusive, that means they have made the necessary changes to their practice to make their program more accessible for those with ID.

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
Why Inclusive Health Matters
  • Inclusive Health is founded on the idea that the health disparities faced by people with ID can be addressed by removing barriers and making the necessary accommodations to include people with ID in the mainstream health care system, health promotion, and public health efforts. Sustainable inclusive policies and practices can address, reduce and often eliminate many of these barriers. Inclusion allows for people with ID to take full advantage of the benefits of the same health programs and services experienced by people who do not have ID, resulting in improved health outcomes.

    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 ID.

Growing the Inclusive Health Movement
We are in the midst of a revolution to break down barriers to access to health services and programs for people with ID, to create a new world where all people can live healthy, productive lives, and to end discrimination against people with ID. The revolution is inclusion!
Principles and Strategies
The four strategies outlined below are formed under two foundational principles of Inclusive Health: 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.
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 & 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 & 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.