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Co-Chairs, Mayor Gondek and the Games Ambassadors

Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 Launches Games Legacy Program to Support Disability-Inclusive Employment

October 30, 2023

Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 has officially launched its Games Legacy program with an employment initiative to make Calgary, Alberta, and Canada more inclusive for persons with an intellectual or developmental disability.

Surrounded by Games sponsors and government partners, Cheryl Bernard and François Poirier – co-chairs for the Games Organizing Committee – kicked off the Legacy Program by introducing a new disability-inclusive employment initiative that provides opportunities for employers to work with Goodwill Industries of Alberta via their Employer Inclusion Accelerator (EIA) program.

“There is a need for greater awareness and action to drive disability-inclusiveness in the workplace. Sports can be a catalyst for that change,” said François Poirier, President and CEO of TC Energy. “This new initiative challenges businesses to be part of essential change to help break down the barriers for people with an intellectual or developmental disability. Recognizing different people, ideas, perspectives and unique skills will ultimately enhance innovation, culture and belonging.”

Interested organizations will have the opportunity to work with Goodwill Industries of Alberta’s Employer Inclusion Accelerator program to leverage the guidance required to start, or accelerate, inclusive hiring practices.

The free Employer Inclusion Accelerator program for Games partners is one avenue for employers to find the guidance they may need to start or accelerate inclusive hiring practices. Organizations will have the opportunity to access support in a number of areas including inclusive job design support; employment promotion; recruitment and onboarding while also having access to additional resources.

“The employment initiative supports the belief that choosing to work is a fundamental human right for all people, including those with an intellectual or developmental disability. It’s part of the path that leads us to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community,” said Cheryl Bernard, an Olympic silver medalist in curling and president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Using sport as a catalyst for systemic change, all partners of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 are contributing to the Legacy Program focused on removing barriers for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Thanks to this widespread support, the Games local Organizing Committee also confirmed that 100 per cent of the proceeds from the Games will go back to community initiatives through a Legacy Fund, with 70 per cent of the funds staying local to the province. A portion of the local Legacy Funds will be used to support Goodwill’s Employer Inclusion Accelerator Program in Alberta. The remaining 30 per cent of Legacy Funds from the 2024 Games will support Special Olympics Canada’s national programs.

"Employment for those with disabilities isn't just about a paycheck; it's about breaking barriers, shattering stereotypes, and proving that abilities always outweigh limitations," said Darby Taylor, Special Olympics athlete, and an employee of the Games through the Athlete Ambassador Program presented by Pembina.

The employment rate among persons with an intellectual disability is 25 per cent, versus 44 per cent for a person who participates in Special Olympics.

“Alberta’s government is happy to support the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024,” said the Honourable Joseph Schow, Minister of Tourism and Sport. “We are honoured to have this opportunity to showcase Calgary’s capacity to serve as a host city for athletes, and we congratulate the Organizing Committee on introducing this disability-inclusive employment initiative.”

Two partners of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary 2024 – Tourism Calgary and TC Energy – are working with Goodwill via the EIA Program to ensure disability-inclusive employment programs are maintained both within their organizations, and in the case of Tourism Calgary, advanced with partners in the tourism industry. Many more partners of the Games are also currently operating as disability-inclusive employers

The Games venue partners: Olympic Oval; WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park; The Bowling Depot; North Hill Curling Club; Seven Chiefs Sportsplex; Maple Ridge and Confederation Park Golf Courses are doing barrier-free accessibility audits in preparation for the Games that are provided free for Games venue operators by Included by Design.

“The spirit of inclusion is what the Special Olympics is all about. It is in that spirit that Calgarians, businesses and organizations are showing up for this event as volunteers, sponsors and partners,” said Calgary Mayor, Jyoti Gondek. “The Legacy Program takes us even further as a community, raising awareness of the positive impacts of inclusive hiring and providing opportunities for everyone to succeed.”

Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 will showcase the power of sport and allow the abilities and determination of the athletes to shine. The Games take place February 27 to March 2 of 2024, when athletes will compete in eight different sports.

“I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to the Games,” said Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary which led the bid to bring the Games to Calgary. “Tourism Calgary is proud of the work being done by our local Games Organizing Committee and co-chairs, and we look forward to not only hosting a meaningful event for our city but continuing to advance the legacy of disability-inclusivity within our industry.”

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