How Can You Change the Game?


BY: USA GAMES CORRESPONDENT, MIKE GASTINEAU

game changer

/gām ‘CHānjǝr/

noun

definition: an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

 

Sheila Hughes is the Executive Director of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. Earlier this year, she made the decision to hire a young woman with intellectual disabilities to work as a greeter at the museum.

A few weeks later, she received an email from the woman’s father. He wrote that his daughter is so happy and excited to have the job. He said she plans to be the greatest greeter the museum ever had, and cited her participation as a Special Olympics athlete as another activity that brings her great joy and personal pride.

Hughes is friends with Beth Knox who is the CEO and President of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. She forwarded the email to Knox, as affirmation of the transformative role that the Special Olympics plays in the lives of so many special individuals, and an idea was born.

“One of our goals in staging the USA Games is to create a lasting legacy of inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities,” said USA Games COO and Executive Producer Jayme Powers. “We had a lot of meetings and discussed what we could do to make that happen. We kept asking ourselves ‘how are we going to change the game?’”

The resulting Game Changer campaign is a very simple and easy idea to execute while at the same time, having the potential to forge a permanent change in the way we think and interact among people with intellectual disabilities.

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The premise is simple. The local organizing committee of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games is asking companies and individuals to think about ways they can engage, interact, and be inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities. Ideas can range from something as simple as meeting with a person with an intellectual disability once a week for a cup of coffee and conversation to designing and implementing career tracks for people with intellectual disabilities at your company.

“There are people and organizations who have been working on this for a long time,” said Powers. “Now, with the 2018 USA Games coming to Seattle, we have this platform and we don’t want to waste it. We want to highlight people who are already doing good things and use the USA Games as a way to encourage others to agree to make a difference.”

Many of the companies who have partnered with the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games already have game changer-type programs in place. Microsoft runs a program called “Autism @ Work” that helps create jobs and careers for people with autism. The Coca-Cola Company is planning on hiring several people with intellectual disabilities to help with their efforts selling drinks to fans at the 2018 USA Games.

“We want to do anything we can to help bring this idea to the forefront with our partners,” Powers said. “But it’s more than the corporations. It’s also about getting individuals involved.”

One aspect of the Game Changer campaign is to highlight individuals and organizations who are working to promote inclusiveness. To nominate an individual or company as a Game Changer, click here. From the nominations received, the USA Games will feature them on social media and the web to recognize those who are and have been making a difference in their communities.

Another part of the campaign is a survey that will be conducted in the Seattle area by Special Olympics. The survey will ask people their beliefs and impressions of people with intellectual disabilities. The survey will be conducted before the USA Games take place in July of 2018, and then again after the USA Games. Powers said the idea of the surveys is to see if the USA Games are effective in moving the needle of how people feel, but she thinks she may already know how things will turn out.

“Seattle is ready for this,” she said. “Based on how receptive people have been to this idea, the climate is exactly right for this idea. The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art story is a perfect example. That organization is now forever changed. That’s it. That’s what we want to do.”