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American University and Special Olympics Collaborate to Advance Research on Disability

American U. and Special Olympics sign a collaboration agreement

American University (AU) and Special Olympics International (SOI) have announced a new collaboration that will include research and educational initiatives focused on persons with intellectual disabilities, and that will provide substantial outreach opportunities for students and faculty. As part of this collaboration, for the first time in the history of Special Olympics, AU students who are currently enrolled in the online Master of Science in Analytics program will analyze Special Olympics’ dataset of health information for persons with intellectual disabilities and develop predictive analytical models to inform Special Olympics programs worldwide. This unique collaboration coincides with the 50th anniversary year of Special Olympics and the unveiling of AU’s new strategic initiative on global disability and development, led by its Institute on Disability and Public Policy.

“American University is a leader in research, teaching, and service for people with disabilities,” said AU President Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “We are proud of our history in inclusive learning, and we are excited to partner with Special Olympics to increase our knowledge of disability and development across the United States and around the world.”

“As the world’s recognized leader in providing sporting opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics has been changing lives and attitudes since 1968,” said Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver. “We are delighted to partner with American University to advance public policies, data analytics, and collaborative research that will positively impact our vast network of athletes and the global disability community.”

The World Health Organization and the World Bank estimate that there are more than one billion people worldwide living with some form of physical, developmental, or intellectual disability. According to Special Olympics, approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. and as many as 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability. The AU-Special Olympics collaboration will focus on the intersection of disability, development, communication, information technology, entrepreneurship, and public policy. The collaboration will also offer AU students for-credit internship opportunities with Special Olympics’ work in creating more inclusive communities with a specific focus in urban settings.

“AU and Special Olympics has already performed meaningful work together, including collaborating on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) iOS mobile app, accessible robotics for inclusive global governance, and student internships focused on inclusive cities and communities” said Professor Derrick Cogburn, Executive Director of the AU Institute on Disability and Public Policy. “We are excited about this next stage in our collaboration and look forward to visits by Special Olympics athletes and leaders to our campus and to providing opportunities for our students to visit the Special Olympics headquarters. This collaboration has the potential to bring a real change to millions of people around the world.”

AU President Burwell, Special Olympics Chairman Shriver, and Special Olympics D.C. athlete Novie Craven commemorated the new agreement between the two institutions.