How accessible is your gym?
More than four million people in Australia experience disability, that’s around one in five.
People with disability represent a significant group of consumers. However, businesses may unintentionally overlook this group, which makes it difficult for people with disability to access services.
Along with potentially breaching anti-discrimination laws, these businesses are often neglecting a significant group of customers.
The Australian Department of Health recommends that people get 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity each week.
However, almost half of people with disabilities aged between 15-64 do no exercise, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
In addition, people with disability are twice as likely to be smokers than those without; a higher proportion are likely to be obese and their overall health much worse than that of the general population, according to VicHealth. This extends to areas that are not connected to the health condition or associated with a person’s disability.
Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they should be denied the right to exercise and that the activity guidelines do not apply. DJ Homann, an education specialist for Life Fitness and Cybex summed it up by saying: “People with disabilities are one of the most underserved markets in fitness.”
Why isn’t fitness always accessible?
Health clubs often don’t know where to start when it comes to providing access for people with disability.
Key obstacles for health clubs
• Lack of training knowledge
Despite the best efforts of good health clubs, trainers are not always equipped to work with people with disabilities and understand their clients’ capabilities.
• Lack of overall facility knowledge
With so many other business considerations, making a facility more accessible might not be top of mind for gym managers. In addition, health club management might not know the best way to go about making their facility more accessible.
• Non-inclusive fitness equipment
Most gym equipment has been designed for people without disabilities. The fitness equipment industry overall hasn’t made it a priority to design more inclusive equipment. This makes it more difficult for health club owners and managers.
Breaking down the barriers
Awareness of the above goes a long way to promoting inclusive fitness. However, overcoming these obstacles and breaking down barriers for people with disability requires a more thoughtful approach, including:
• Inclusive fitness certification
There are certifications offered by Australian fitness bodies specifically aimed at developing programs for people with disabilities. Ensuring that your managers and trainers have appropriate certification will help to promote inclusivity and allow them to safely prescribe appropriate exercise strategies for clients with disabilities.
• Consulting the experts on facility design
Many fitness suppliers are well-versed when it comes to the requirements around equipment in health clubs. For example, Life Fitness has a team of layout specialists who know the spacing requirements and can assist with properly laying out an entire facility for better accessibility and inclusiveness.
• Purchasing the right fitness equipment
Functional training systems such as the Life Fitness SYNRGY360 are extremely versatile and provide trainers with a verity of options for their clients. This includes accommodating people with disabilities or people undergoing rehab. Similarly, SCIFIT offers cardio products with wheelchair access and color-coded adjustment points for easy visibility. (SCIFIT is also a major part of the training of Paralympic athlete Travis Gaertner.) The Cybex Total Access selectorised strength features seats that can swing out of the way for wheelchair access and weight stacks are accessible while seated.