Accessible vs. Inclusive – What is the difference?

May 02, 2011
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If a facility is labeled accessible, what exactly does that mean?  Wikipedia defines accessible as: ‘able to be reached or entered’, which is what having an accessible building or facility means.  If I am a person who uses a wheelchair, I may be able to get into a building or center because of a ramp or a curb cut out that has been strategically placed near the entrance.  Because of ADA laws, this facility may have an elevator or an accessible bathroom – but that may be the full extent of the accessibility streak.  Just because a center is accessible, doesn’t mean that it is inclusive. A facility that is inclusive goes far beyond the basic idea of people being able to enter the center.

An inclusive environment, allows people with all type of disabilities to mobilize around the center as well as utilize the equipment and amenities inside of the center.  An inclusive fitness facility would offer both classes and equipment that can be utilized by people with and without disabilities.  A gym that has accessible or adaptable equipment but that isolates those machines in a corner of the gym is not an inclusive facility.  A facility that teaches a separate class for people who use wheelchairs is not promoting an inclusive environment.

In March 2012, the Department of Justice in conjunction with the ADA, will be mandating some federal guidelines for all public fitness facilities in the country.  These mandates will pertain to accessible equipment requirements for a large number of public fitness chains and corporations that currently do not have equipment options for people with disabilities.  As important as it is to for these facilities to invest in accessible equipment, it is equally critical that these machines are integrated onto the main fitness floor.  People with or without disabilities should be able to workout side by side, motivating each other in their pursuits for fitness.  Education is also imperative to the success of this inclusive effort, so that personal trainers understand various disabilities and can offer instruction to promote beneficial exercises that maximize personal independence and strength gains.

Author: Elizabeth