05 October, 2023

United Raises Airline Miles for Special Olympics During National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month

United is raising airline miles for Special Olympics during National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month to help athletes fly to training and competitions across the country and around the world.

During October, the airline's industry-leading crowdsourcing program, Miles on a Mission, will spotlight Special Olympics and encourage loyalty program members to donate unused miles for a charitable cause. Last year, Special Olympics athletes participated in over 100,000 games, trainings and competitions.

United's long-standing partnership with Special Olympics extends beyond raising miles – the airline also sponsors Special Olympics Plane Pull® competitions, local volunteer events and Special Olympics World Games. In 2019, United launched the Special Olympics Service Ambassador (SOSA) Program, where Special Olympics athletes work in airports as part-time employees, welcoming United customers and helping them find check-in kiosks, where to drop bags and how to find TSA PreCheck lines. There are currently 18 SOSAs working at United's hubs in Chicago, Houston, Denver and Washington, D.C.

"At United, we strive to create an environment where acceptance and appreciation of everyone is the norm," said Helon Hammond, VP of Global Learning, People & Community Impact for United. "We're proud to partner with Special Olympics not only to raise miles to support athletes and teams in competition, but through volunteer events and our SOSA program to empower all individuals with intellectual disabilities." 

Donated miles help support Special Olympics' travel across the globe. Since 2017, United has contributed more than $8.5 million in travel and cash to support Special Olympics' athletes. These events foster inclusive and engaging experiences and break down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities.

"The travel we receive through our partnership with United has allowed hundreds of athletes, coaches, and volunteers to fly to trainings and competitions around the world," said Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics. "All athletes deserve to experience the power and joy that sports can bring. Together with United's partnership, we're uniquely able to introduce these experiences to more of our athletes through travel."

"I joined the United Airlines team as a Service Ambassador at the beginning of the program and I love how it lets me use my gift of communication to help others," said ORD Service Ambassador Daniel Smrokowski. "I'm proud to see how Special Olympics and United work together to provide inclusive opportunities of employment for athletes."

United has been a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion for eight years in a row and has consistently earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index.

Some of the airline's more recent measures to improve accessibility include:

Plans to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair, including a new digital filter on United.com that helps determine which aircraft can accommodate different sized chairs, and refunding the fare difference if a higher-fare flight is needed to accommodate a specific wheelchair size.
In July, United became the first U.S. airline to add Braille to aircraft interiors, helping millions of travelers with visual disabilities to more easily navigate the cabin independently. United expects to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.
The United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier for people with visual disabilities to use. The app offers increased color contrast, more space between graphics and reorders how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack.
United's Inflight Seatback Entertainment screens offer a wide range of accessible features such as closed captioning, text-to-speech controls, magnification, explore-by-touch capabilities, audio-described movies, and adjustable and high-contrast text and color correction. As part of United Next, the airline's historic growth plan, the carrier expects to take delivery of about 700 new narrow and widebody aircraft by the end of 2032, all of which will include the latest in seatback screen entertainment options.
Through Bridge, United's Business Resource Group for people of all abilities, employees help create a workplace environment where all can strive to achieve their maximum potential and support our commitment to being an ally for customers with disabilities.
/Visit united.com/donate today to learn more about how you can donate miles to Special Olympics and become a MileagePlus® Member for free.

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