Tagged with: accessibility equipment exercise fitness center inclusive
I was browsing through some headlines today and noticed a theme I usually don’t see… There were several articles that discussed the inaccessibility of fitness equipment for people with disabilities and ways that things are starting to change (check out two articles here and here). This has become a fairly hot topic in the field of disability and physical activity over the past several years, but it is rare to see articles in the general media about it.
I was so encouraged to see this! Because the reality is that in the large majority of fitness facilities there is very little of much use to people with mobility limitations…particularly people with mobility limitations who do not know enough about exercise to get creative with what is available. And let’s face it, so many of us are not comfortable enough in a fitness center to want to or know how to use equipment in a different way or adapt exercises. I even find myself sometimes feeling a little too self conscious to try something new or modify an exercise when I am exercising in a public facility, and I have a master’s degree in the field as well as years of experience working in the gym and teaching others how to get creative with the equipment. So, how can we expect people to try to navigate their way through something that wasn’t originally designed to include them? And even if you do have that knowledge and comfort level, in many cases there are still ZERO options for individuals with mobility impairments. Which brings me to my point: Having equipment that is specifically designed with the intention of being usable by individuals with disabilities is essential for providing opportunities for physical activity participation in this population…because it’s not just about being able to get in the door, it’s about everyone being able to use everything the facility has to offer equally.
As I read these articles, I was reminded of all of the really neat work that is being done in developing what has been termed “inclusive fitness equipment.” That is, equipment that is designed to be usable by people with and without disabilities, alike. Here are just a few examples of what is out there:
Our next steps include continuing to develop standards for inclusive equipment (see the work the Beneficial Designs is), increasing the production of inclusive equipment, and making sure that inclusive equipment options are available in all facilities! Here in the US, we can learn much from what has already been accomplished in the UK. While we are most definitely stepping in the right direction, we sure have some work ahead of us! There is a clear need, and we must continue to charge forward in trying to fill it!