Matthew Williams is a champion. He trains five days a week to excel in both basketball and speed skating and has gone on to represent Canada in international competition. In his inspiring TED Talk, Williams discusses how society has become more accepting of athletes with intellectual disabilities—however, we still have a ways to go. “The world does not see all people like me as champions,” Williams says, “Not long ago, people like me were shunned and hidden away. There has been lots of change since Special Olympics began in 1968, but in too many cases, people with intellectual disabilities are invisible to the wider population.”
Unfortunately, too many athletes have not been given the opportunity to perfect and showcase their talents. The Special Olympics has taken great steps to help all athletes reach their fullest potential by not only supporting athletes in competition, but also supporting their health: “Special Olympics also addresses critical health needs. Studies have shown that, on average, men with intellectual disabilities die 13 years younger than men without, and women with intellectual disabilities die 20 years younger than women without. Special Olympics keeps us healthy by getting us active and participating in sport. Also, our coaches teach us about nutrition and health. Special Olympics also provides free health screening for athletes who have difficulty communicating with their doctor or accessing health care.”
Playing sports have a variety of benefits such as building teamwork and leadership skills in a safe and fun environment—an environment all athletes should have the opportunity to be a part of. The Special Olympics is just one organization that is doing incredible work—work that Williams has the utmost respect for: “Special Olympics is changing the world by transforming four and a half million athletes and giving us a place to be confident, meet friends, not be judged and get to feel like and be champions.”
For more information on the Special Olympics, visit their website.
Watch the full talk below: