Press Releases

Bridging the gap: Special Olympics and Best Buddies create global movement to build inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities

Five young adults wearing Spread the Word Inclusion t-shirts.
  • More than 200 million individuals with intellectual disabilities continue to face exclusion in workplaces, schools, and communities around the world.
  • More than 60% of people still believe that individuals with intellectual disabilities should be segregated in the school and the workplace.
  • Special Olympics and Best Buddies are growing the success of ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ into Spread the Word: Inclusion to combat this discrimination.
  • The campaign calls on people to pledge to a concrete action of inclusion
  • Tweet this pledge on March 6th: I #PledgetoInclude thru my words and actions. Will you? Pledge now to change the game for people with ID at

Washington, D.C. – 6 March 2019: Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and supporters from around the world will unite on Wednesday, March 6th for the annual Spread the Word Day.

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has been working to spread respect and inclusion for the past 10 years by addressing the excluding and demeaning impact of the words “retard(ed).” Since 2009, more than 1 million people have pledged to end their use of the R-word. In 2017, 70% of teens said they vocalized the wrong and demeaning use of the R-word when it used in conversation, up nearly 50% since 2009. Our campaign’s new form—Spread the Word: Inclusion—builds on the success of the past 10 years by challenging everyone to commit to respect and include.

“From our work bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities, we believe that inclusion is a skill—a skill that our world needs now more than ever. With this global, grassroots campaign, we are challenging all people to practice the skill of inclusion, develop it, model it, and teach it,” said Soeren Palumbo, co-founder of Spread the Word and now Senior Director of Global Youth Engagement at Special Olympics International.

“In a time when our world is mired in division and exclusion, we need champions of inclusion. The leaders of Spread the Word to End the Word, with and without intellectual disabilities, have been those champions in communities around the world for more than a decade by challenging the pervasive use of the word “retard(ed),” said Tim Shriver, Jr., co-founder of Spread the Word. “In this next decade we are excited for Spread the Word: Inclusion to support and propel those leaders to further transform their communities into beacons of inclusion from which the whole world can learn.”

The Spread the Word grassroots campaign was created in February 2009 by Soeren Palumbo and Tim Shriver Jr. With the support of Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and grassroots leaders with and without intellectual disabilities around the world, the campaign has grown into a global platform for inclusion and action. To date, over 780,000 people have taken the campaign’s pledge online to and millions more have taken the pledge by signing banners or petitions at events around the world.

The Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign invites all people to commit to individual acts of inclusion. The campaign highlights the divisions in schools, workplaces, and communities that have led to social isolation, exclusion, and other forms of social abuse among individuals with intellectual disabilities all over the world. More than 15% of the global population are estimated to have a disability, with 80% in low-income or developing countries; and many of them continue to be left out educationally, socially, and economically. By committing to concrete acts of inclusion, we take steps towards full inclusion for one of the world’s largest minorities.

“The Spread the Word Inclusion Campaign is so important, said Elyse Whittmore, a Special Olympics US Youth Ambassador. “It is essential that students are spreading inclusion in a positive manner. My school will be participating in the Pinky Promise challenge by having students paint one of their nails to pledge to promote inclusion.”

Another Special Olympics Youth Ambassador, Sydney Meininger says, “I am excited for Spread the Word because it helps students understand that not everyone is the same and celebrates individuals who may be different. My school is creating our own puzzle where we each are going to be designing puzzle pieces from end to end making one giant puzzle.”

The Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign continues to advocate for and with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to work to make our society more inclusive. Special Olympics offers Unified Sports and inclusive leadership and education activities in over 6,500 schools in 47 states and Washington, DC, across the country. Many of these schools host Spread the Word events led by students inviting their peers to commit to social inclusion.

Best Buddies International youth programs promote one-to-one friendship opportunities and leadership development in schools around the world. In many of the 2,300+ middle school, high school, and college Best Buddies chapters worldwide, the Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign has become an integral part of the Best Buddies’ mission and showcases the commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year, Spread the Word: Inclusion supporters—including the Golisano Foundation and thousands of schools around the nation—have activated their communities and neighborhoods to engage around the day with pledge events.

Get Involved!

Engage with us on Facebook at or Twitter at! Tweet this pledge today: I #PledgetoInclude thru my words and actions. Will you? Pledge now to change the game for people with ID at


About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at

About Best Buddies International

Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.. For more information, please visit, facebook or twitter.

Media Contact

Theresa Fitzpatrick
Special Olympics
+1 (202) 860-6642

Nicole Maddox
Best Buddies International
(305) 374-2233 x343