Special Olympics UAE has spoken about the power of sport to encourage social inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities at the UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Athlete Chaica Al Qassimi represented the UAE at the conference, having been a referee and a torchbearer at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in March.

She spoke about the impact of the World Games on people with intellectual disabilities and called on the international community to do more to utilise sport as a tool for social inclusion.

Al Qassimi, who has Down’s syndrome, said: “Inclusion comes from the Special Olympics. It gives [people with intellectual disabilities] visibility, it gives us exposure, it gives us inclusion.”

In particular, she praised the World Games for opening the minds of many people around the world and also demonstrating the role the private sector can play in building a more inclusive society.

The 2019 World Games were the largest sporting event the UAE has hosted and the country has worked to improve conditions for people with intellectual disabilities.

One change, announced soon after the World Games were awarded to the Abu Dhabi, was to start describing those with disabilities as “people of determination.”

Hosts UAE won 182 medals at the Games, which saw over 7,500 athletes from 190 countries take part.

Talal Al Hashimi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE, said: “Today we uphold the legacy of the Special Olympics World Games in transforming attitudes and inspiring qualitative changes in the society to achieve community integration and access to rights for people of determination.”

The UN adopted the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. This was the 12th conference hosted by the UN Headquarters in New York.

Al Hashimi added: “We are proud of the honourable participation of the United Arab Emirates in this international conference.”