A year ago, in anticipation of Seattle hosting the Special Olympics USA Games, The Welcome Inclusion (WIN) initiative was launched – with the aim of making King County a model for community inclusion. We spoke with Erin Brewer, Director of Outreach and Communications for WIN.
What is WIN?
WIN is a grassroots initiative designed to capitalize on the attention the Special Olympics USA Games is bringing to people with intellectual, behavioral, and social differences in our community. It was initially launched with a goal to have 250 businesses take the WIN pledge in the year leading up to the games, with the aim of affecting real and positive change in our community.
What has WIN accomplished in its first year?
Over 200 businesses have taken the 6 point pledge. You’ll know them by the WIN sticker on their door and can find them on the interactive map. In addition to the businesses and professionals that were the initial focus, the cultural sector and membership organizations wanted to join in, so now places like Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy & Girl Scouts, YMCA, Fifth Avenue Theater, and Pacific Science Center have taken the pledge.
The only hesitation organizations have had in taking the pledge once they know about WIN is wanting to have the ability to live up to it. The WIN approach has been to say that nobody is perfect, but if they are willing to voice meaningful inclusion as a value, then WIN can provide support and expertise to help them do just that.
WIN has also gained many champions this year. In addition to the businesses who’ve taken the pledge, leaders and advocates in the Down Syndrome Community, the Autism Community, and other professionals, friends, and family members have joined in this grassroots movement and are helping make the changes real. These respective vantage points are critical to ongoing success for an inclusive community.
What is the WIN pledge?
Developed by peers, healthcare practitioners, education professionals, self advocates, and family and friends in the community, this is The Central 6 Pledge:
1. We welcome people of all abilities.
2. We value and strive to understand differences.
3. We communicate with clarity, respect, and patience.
4. We encourage all our customers to do the same.
5. We are here to help and accommodate you.
6. We invite ongoing conversations to improve our service.
When a company makes the pledge, they receive the WIN sticker to display and they get on the WIN map!
What now? How will WIN continue after the USA Games?
The first year was really phase 1: prepare for the Games, build momentum. Now WIN pioneer companies like the Woodland Park Zoo, Tutta Bella, and MOD Pizza are seeking to partner with WIN to do more. They are taking the lead in challenging their fellow businesses to take the WIN pledge and provide more opportunities for individuals with differences in our community. These WIN pioneers want to provide training and skill building for individuals and for peer companies who could employ these individuals. For instance, providing training in the food service industry would ideally lead to job opportunities both within these pioneer businesses and in other businesses willing to partner with WIN pioneers to learn and grow. They want to open up more opportunities for inclusion in our community and make that happen with training and inclusive leadership. This is an exciting evolution of WIN’s initial aim! This is really what post-USA Games, or phase 2, is shaping up to be – an opportunity to stretch beyond the initial goals, powered by passionate people and businesses who are coming up with tangible ways to help facilitate and promote inclusion. The USA Games is really the first milestone in the journey – and now WIN wants the changes to both expand and stick!
Nominate businesses to take the pledge. If you’ve had a great experience with an inclusive place, then tell them about the WIN pledge. If you feel a business needs to develop their inclusive practices, those companies can also be nominated and receive help and mentorship to live up to the WIN pledge.
Join the WIN GroopIt site to find others who are actively engaged in this grassroots effort to build a more inclusive community.
Browse the WIN website where you’ll not only find more answers to your questions, but great videos featuring several members of our own Down Syndrome Community!
For visitors to our community, try out the WIN businesses while you’re here, learn more about the Welcome Inclusion movement, and contact Erin Brewer at WIN to collaborate and broaden outreach.