How Well Does The Fitness Industry Provide For Disabled People?

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LONDON, United Kingdom — Fitness industry body ukactive is launching a new study to shine a spotlight on the UK fitness industry’s provision for people with disabilities.

The survey, which is open to all gyms, fitness and leisure facilities in the UK until the end of September 2021, aims to help remove the barriers to physical activity for disabled people by ensuring that fitness and leisure operators are supported to continue to improve access to their services. 

The initiative follows concerns that disabled people were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions. Prior to the pandemic, the gap in activity levels was beginning to close, however, according to ukactive, disabled people are still twice as likely as non-disabled people to be inactive.

A recent report by The Activity Alliance revealed that twice as many disabled people felt that coronavirus greatly reduced their ability to do sport or physical activity (27%) compared to non-disabled people (13%). The survey also showed that disabled people are some of the least active, despite great demand and intent to do more.

It is hoped that off the back of ukactive’s new survey, it can set out clear, implementable and practical measures for fitness and leisure operators to help them to build upon their existing offer for disabled people. 

These recommendations will build on the findings of ukactive’s Everyone Can report (commissioned by Sport England), which has already identified key themes for improvement, including:

  • Upskilling the workforce
  • Enhancing levels of customer service and engaging better with disabled people
  • Providing more information to customers
  • Communicating that gyms and leisure centres are open to all
  • Beginning to capture and report on usage levels and experiences of disabled people

Speaking about the initiative, Chair of ukactive, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, explained:

“Our ambition is to create a fitness and leisure sector that is freely accessed and used by all, enabling everyone to be active and participate in whatever capacity they wish. Our sector is uniquely placed to welcome more disabled people and play an essential role in providing opportunities for people to stay active and healthy, regardless of their background, age or ability,”

Adam Blaze, Strategic Lead for Disability at Sport England, added: “The stark reality is that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as the rest of the population. As the sport and physical activity sector recovers from the pandemic, we must work harder than ever to ensure that disabled people are not left behind.” 

Operators of all sizes are being urged to contribute to the initiative so that the fitness industry can work collaboratively to improve inclusivity and accessibility.

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