Special Olympics Unified Sports® brings together athletes with intellectual disabilities and athletes without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) to train and compete on the same team. Participants improve their physical fitness, sharpen their skills and learn acceptance and inclusion while participating in Unified Sports. A primary goal of Unified Sports is to equalize the ability level of Special Olympics athletes with their partners and to promote inclusion through team practice and competition.
The Unified Sports program expands sports opportunities for participants seeking new challenges and dramatically increases their inclusion in the community, by helping to break down the barriers that have historically kept people with and without intellectual disabilities apart. At the same time, Unified Sports provides a valuable sports opportunity to individuals with intellectual disabilities who are not presently involved with Special Olympics, especially those with mild disabilities.
Originally founded in Massachusetts, Unified Sports has become an important addition to Special Olympics internationally and has helped further its mission, by improving self-esteem, fostering acceptance and creating new friendships among its participants.