As the Circuit Breaker and Covid-19 pandemic implications on our daily lives continue to mentally stress the stay-at-home population, note that for people with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) across the region, social isolation has been a norm they have had to live with most of their lives.

Special Olympics Asia Pacific (SOAP) has kick-started the #MyNormal campaign, a public awareness and fundraising initiative targeted at helping these people.

According to SOAP, there are as many as 200 million people globally with intellectual disabilities, but they remain one of the most underserved, misunderstood and stigmatized populations in the world. They do not get equal opportunities in almost all aspects of their lives, including employment, education, and access to quality healthcare.

“Launching the #MyNormal campaign puts the spotlight on all the abnormal feelings society is experiencing such as social isolation, loneliness, and the mental stress of not being able to go to work, and missing out on outings with friends and families. It draws comparison to the everyday experiences of people with intellectual disabilities who have been ignored, bullied ridiculed and marginalized all their lives,” says Dipak Natali, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Asia Pacific.

A 2013 Unicef report states that a significant proportion of children with disabilities are denied access to basic services including education and healthcare, and are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.

The greatest barriers to inclusion are stigma, prejudice, ignorance and lack of training and capacity building and many of them continue to spend much or all of their lives in institutions and nursing homes.

While the effects of Covid-19 have been adversely felt by the general population worldwide, the economic and emotional impact are magnified for people with intellectual disabilities.

There is also a growing digital divide between connected global citizens and PWIDs in developing nations who have limited access to technology. To attempt to bridge this divide, SOAP has developed educational cards to be distributed to PWIDs offline, with essential information that will help them stay fit and healthy at home.

“As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely heavily on volunteers and public donations. The coronavirus has sent shock waves across the world economy, which has also impacted charities like ours. We will need all the financial support we can get to continue running programs to care for people with intellectual disabilities, and to promote greater inclusion across the Asia Pacific region,” says Natali.

Funds raised from the #MyNormal campaign for Special Olympics Asia Pacific will support more than 1.9 million athletes with intellectual disabilities from 35 countries across the Asia Pacific region, of which Singapore is one of them. (Read the stories of Singapore’s Salihin Bin Nawi and Florence Hui).

Salihin Bin Nawi’s father died of a heart attack when he was only 6 years old. In primary school, he had issues catching up with lessons and his schoolmates made matters tough for him by taking away his things and making fun of his father’s name. He eventually confided in his mother who understood his problems and moved him to a special education school. He started participating in Special Olympics Singapore in floorball and bocce, where he won medals at national level competitions.

The money raised will go to funding various initiatives that empower and promote inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities; which include sports training, improving access to quality healthcare, as well as leadership programs that equip them with skills for them to assimilate into society.

Donations are currently being received at https://bit.ly/MyNormalDonate

About Special Olympics Asia Pacific

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. Founded in 1968, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 190 countries.

In the Asia Pacific region, Special Olympics has touched the lives of more than 1.9 million athletes across 35 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics, as a global movement, delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year.

Check out some of the personal stories of Special Olympics athletes, their parents, and coaches from across the Asia Pacific region on the Human Race site to understand how being a part of the Special Olympics movement has impacted their lives.

Special thanks to Special Olympics Asia Pacific for the information.

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