by Patrizia Brognoli
Project involving young people with down syndrome Decathlon Italy
Decathlon Italia’s commitment to inclusion is inspired by our company’s aim: to make sport accessible to as many people as possible, without exception.
The inclusion of a ‘special’ person is an important moment for us, especially when we welcome people with cognitive disabilities.
Successfully including means overcoming stereotypes and fear of the unknown.
For years we have been promoting internships in the company for individuals who belong to the most disadvantaged categories. The project that best represents this commitment is that dedicated to young people with Down syndrome. We previously worked on projects dedicated to people with physical disabilities, and having had no other experiences, we felt unprepared to deal with different disabilities. We have changed our minds.
Our approach changed when we met Davide (not his real name), a competitive swimmer with Down syndrome, who helped us overcome our barriers. Welcoming Davide, learning about the syndrome and participating in integrating him into the workplace and growing together, showed how this disability is a good fit in a healthy environment like ours. What helped us? A passion for sport and the desire to share it. Practicing a sport with group dynamics is a strong accelerator for developing bonds and interpersonal relationships, a wonderful aggregator.
Decathlon Italia signed a national agreement with the AIPD association about three years ago. The association accompanies us on this journey: the tutors helped us to learn about Down syndrome, and understand the value of communication and working alongside new workers to best welcome these young people. The association’s tutors are important addition, especially during the first few weeks of the internship, as they flank both the interns involved in the project and the Decathlon employees.
Before being launched, the project is presented on the site (retail or logistics): this provides an opportunity for exchanges and discussion with all employees interested in undergoing training linked to inclusion and it is an opportunity to respond to any questions and to provide reassurance to those who need it.
When we talk about inclusion we do it through moments when we raise awareness: having a shared experience of these issues is essential because it helps to create greater awareness. We know that working in heterogeneous contexts facilitates new, more effective and efficient practices, but daily flanking is essential. It is a growth path that Decathlon strongly desired to take and included in its strategic axes, involving all employees in order to identify and enhance every talent, each with its own characteristics and uniqueness that brings value to the company and to the individual.