World Wellness Weekend is partnering with IHRSA to include more movement, Fitness & Sports into the lifestyle of millions of people in 120 countries on 19-20 Sept 2020. Inspired by Catherine Carty, UNESCO Chair Project Manager “Transforming the Lives of People with Disabilities, their Families and Communities, Through Physical Education, Sport, Recreation and Fitness”, the inclusion of people with disabilities is a major focus of World Wellness Weekend for 2020 and beyond.
With #WellnessBuddies, we want people to inspire & empower each other to be more active. We encourage people to find a friend, colleague or family member to be accountable and support each other in their Wellness objective.
With #WellnessForAll , we do not just envision people who are already healthy, but ALL people—young, old, healthy or living with Non-Communicable Diseases, and those with and without disabilities.
People with disabilities may want to exercise in a fitness club, but—like many—they may face barriers to exercising that can include:
- feeling nervous or unwelcome,
- lack of social support, or
- low self-efficacy for exercise.
“People with disabilities are more likely to be insufficiently active compared to peers without disabilities,” says Alexandra Black Larcom, IHRSA’s senior manager of health promotion & health policy. “When fitness centers make their services and facilities more welcoming and inclusive, they are providing an important service to a large market that has been previously underserved.”
How Can We Make an Inclusive Fitness Industry?
Alexandra says an inclusive fitness industry is one in which the majority of fitness facilities actively welcome and include people of all abilities.
We need to mainstream diversity, not just create separate areas or programming. For example, if you offer programming designed to help people who are wheelchair users be more active, that is awesome, and IHRSA together with World Wellness Weekend want to know about it.
However, mainstreaming diversity means those members also feel empowered to use a fitness club outside of those classes. Achieving universal inclusion means the greatest amount of people will be able to access health clubs without the need for extra accommodations.
For example, can a person with vision impairment, or neurological issues, walk into your club and use it without needing to ask if your facility can accommodate them?
What Fitness Clubs Can Do to Start Being More Inclusive Today
Making your club inclusive isn’t a matter of making one or two simple changes. Rather, Alexandra Black Larcom says it reflects a longer-term culture change involving all levels of staff.
That being said, something your club can start doing today to show your commitment to a more inclusive fitness sector is ensuring the spaces, equipment, programs, and classes you offer cater to a wide range of people.
Merely moving machines to make walkways wider or including instructions for equipment in braille can make all the difference.
Use this time of lockdown for Coronavirus to review Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) checklist and audit guide to help your business:
- identify barriers,
- develop solutions for removing these barriers, and
- set priorities for implementing improvements.
For clubs outside the U.S., the ADA checklist can still be a helpful resource to fuel your reflection, so that you can reopen your doors to a wider audience when social distancing will be lifted.
Another thing you can do is make sure your marketing materials include images that reflect all types of people. Your club may say it is welcoming to all—and mean it—only to be betrayed by your marketing materials.
Using photographs of people of different races, weights, body types, and skills can make more people feel welcome. Make it clear that physical activity is both beneficial—and accessible—for everyone.
A 2017 survey by the National Business and Disability Council found that 66% of consumers will purchase goods and services from a business that features persons with disabilities in their advertising. That number jumped to 78% if that business takes steps to ensure easy access for individuals with disabilities at their physical locations.
The fitness industry and your club have the opportunity to use this unprecedented global lockdown to prepare a dramatic culture change and improve the lives of billions of people.
This can be achieved one step at a time and the first step could be taken now as you reflect with your team about re-opening when the pandemic fades away.
Together, we can make sure no one is ever told or made to feel like they aren’t able or welcome to work out in a health club. Let’s non drop the metaphoric kettlebell on this one.
DISCLAIMER: This article is brought to you in collaboration with IHRSA.
For more ideas on how your club can start to be more inclusive in your space, marketing, and values, download the Creating an Inclusive Fitness Club and Sector e-book.