With the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010, leisure providers now have a legal duty to provide an equal service for disabled customers. As a result of these laws there have been many improvements; however steps to entrances, a lack of equipment and staff attitudes are still commonly reported barriers and the level of accessible provision can vary a great deal from one facility to another.
A good way find the right place to train is to visit or call the local gyms, swimming pools and fitness centres in your area to find out what facilities they have. If possible, go and try them out for yourself to make sure they are accessible for you.
As a minimum, you should expect any facility to have adequate accessible parking facilities, access ramps, lifts and automatic/power-assisted doors, accessible toilet and changing facilities and staff trained in at least basic disability awareness who are keen to assist you. Talk to the personal trainers and see if they can they offer the right help and are trained to work with disabled people.
If you are not sure what questions to ask look at one of our access surveys. This is not a full access audit but shows some of the key access features that gyms and fitness centres should provide.
Most swimming pools will also have a hoist to help lower users with physical impairments into and out of the water although these are often kept in a store room, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see one on the poolside. There are other access facilities available as well, such as removable stairs, ramps and pool floors that can be raised to the same height as the poolside.
Inclusive Fitness Initiative
The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI), managed by the English Federation of Disability Sports (EFDS), has also been working for a number of years to make gyms, as well as their supporting facilities, more accessible as a whole addressing physical access and policies, fitness equipment, staff training and marketing.
There are approximately 400 IFI Mark gyms which are accredited to either Provisional, Registered or Excellent levels of accreditation depending on their level of access and service provision. In addition to this the IFI influence of fitness equipment suppliers means many other gyms will now have a selection of accessible equipment with features such as tactile, bright coloured controls and moveable seats for wheelchair access.
More information and a list of IFI sites can be found through the EFDS website.