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Greek Parliament Ratifies Declaration of The Promotion of Sports Integration in Schools Act

Athens, Greece – 28 June 2011– Yesterday, Greek Parliament held a special session with invited guests of Special Olympics to commemorate the Declaration of The Promotion of Sports Integration in Schools Act, a landmark law that promotes the full inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities through sport. Even amidst economic and political challenges, Prime Minister George Papandreou attended the Declaration signing. “By hosting this event, we send the noble message of social inclusion, humanity, and solidarity through and by sport” said Papandreou, “In an age of differences, we have a social responsibility to promote values and peace.”

 

Presiding over the session was Mr. Philippos Petsalnikos, President of the Hellenic Parliament, who was joined by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Partriarch Bartholomew; Mr. Papandreou;  the Minister of  Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Ms. Anna Diamantopoulou; and the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Solidarity, Mr. Christos Aidonis.  President of the Games Organizing Committee, Yianna Despotopoulou represented Special Olympics along with Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman and CEO, and Global Youth Summit representatives Mr. Stratigis Voukidis,  Mr. Mathew Williams, and Mr. Philipppos Petsalnikos.

 

The Declaration was ratified at Parliament in front of an audience of 67 young people from more than 30 countries and guests of the Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens, 2011, which takes place in Athens, Greece June 25 to July 4.  The Special Olympics Movement hopes this Declaration will contribute to a lasting legacy of acceptance, inclusion and joy among the people of Greece. 

 

According to the World Health Organization’s recent Report on Disability released earlier this month, 25 percent of all students with disabilities in Greece are educated in special schools while the other 75 percent are educated in special classes within mainstream schools. Students with significant intellectual disabilities in Greece are educated partially or entirely in separate, special schools. Through The Promotion of Sports Integration in Schools Act, the Greek Parliament considers the need to create inclusive curricula for students with and without disabilities, promote the socialization and integration of people with intellectual disabilities, and overcome prejudices and biases in mainstream schools.

 

Building upon the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the success of Special Olympics Unified Sports®, the Promotion of Sports Integration in Schools Act  implements a new system in schools to ensure students with intellectual disabilities participate in physical education and sports programs throughout Greece. The Declaration protects the rights of people with disabilities, including their autonomy, integration, and participation in social activities, and also creates opportunities for them to move from segregated classrooms and activities to integrated physical education.

 

From an annual day of integration in all schools to a continuous school-year plan, the Declaration will lead to better communication and social interaction between students with and without intellectual disabilities inform citizens of Greece of the challenges students with intellectual disabilities (ID) face in school, train teachers to educate and include students with intellectual disabilities in integrated education and sports programs, and expand teacher training curricula about the field of intellectual disabilities and inclusive education in universities.

 

The Declaration is one step toward changing cultural attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities and creating a more inclusive society for all and a model for other countries to advance similarly inclusive legislation.

 

Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 are happening 25 June – 4 July.  For the next 10 days, more than 7,000 Special Olympics Athletes from nearly 180 countries around the world will compete in the largest international multi-sport event of the year, featuring 22 Olympic-type sports.



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