A Win-Win Situation: Eliciting Feedback from New Participants

May 10, 2011
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I always learn so much when I give presentations. I love it! A few weeks ago I presented to a group of campus recreation professionals on ways that they can prepare their fitness staff so that they are able to provide inclusive services. My favorite thing happened during this presentation – it quickly turned from a lecture that I was giving to a discussion that everyone was involved in. People started asking questions and giving each other resources and ideas. I hope it was as informative for everyone who attended as it was for me.

One of the suggestions that is often made in the context of campus recreation is that the recreation facilities should partner with the campus Disability Resource Center in order to serve students with disabilities as best as possible. In response to this suggestion, someone in the audience of this particular presentation raised a very legitimate question – what are the most effective ways to do this? Another audience member raised her hand and offered some insight into how they had done this at her facility…and I could see everyone in the audience asking themselves, “Why hadn’t we thought of that before?” Here is what she shared:

She explained that every year, when new students arrive on campus, through their partnership with the disability resource center, all students with disabilities are invited to come to the recreation center, tour it, and comment on its accessibility. Students are invited to say how certain things would hinder their ability to use the facility and what changes might be helpful. From this feedback, the staff members at the recreation center make as many changes as possible so as to make the center accessible and inclusive. Not only does this process improve the usability of the facility, but it also empowers the students and gives them ownership – hopefully leading to increased use of the facility and higher levels of activity. So simple, yet so effective!

Although this suggestion was specific to campus recreation, it is applicable across all fitness centers and any other venue for that matter. When someone with a disability registers for a program or purchases a membership, how easy would it be to simply ask them to view the program or tour the facility and offer suggestions?

We always say that the person with the disability is the true expert. This is a perfect way to apply that sentiment. And the best part is that both sides benefit – the facility/program gets free suggestions and an opportunity to improve and the individual gets to have their voice heard and, hopefully, their needs met.

Author: Carolyn

  • Inclusive Fitness Coalition

    Carolyn, @incfit loves this blog!