‘Gyms must raise the bar when it comes to catering for disabled people’


More needs to be done to cater for and engage disabled people in the UK fitness industry, according to one of UK’s largest leisure operators.

Rob Johnson, founder and managing director of Future Fit Training, said that a new report revealing that millions of disabled people are not being catered for in UK gyms is a “wake-up call” for operators.

The survey, highlighted in the report, Raising the Bar, found that personal trainers (PTs) are not being equipped to work with disabled people, fitness professionals are not recognising disabilities and employers are unsure of how many of their gym members have a disability.

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The survey showed that 86% of fitness employees think that current training does not equip gym professionals to work with disabled people.

The report showed that more than half (61%) of UK fitness professionals are unsure of what proportion of their customer base have a disability. Many were also unaware of the breadth of conditions that constitute a disability, including physical and mental impairments. 

The Raising the Bar report collected data by surveying the UK’s largest leisure operators, representing over 45,000 fitness employees.

Mr Johnson said: “The results of this survey are a wake-up call to the fitness industry that more needs to be done to cater for and engage disabled people.

“They reveal the scale of the challenge that lies ahead to ensure that disabled people’s needs are recognised, understood and addressed in gyms and fitness establishments across the UK.”

Other results in the report showed that only 18% of respondents thought qualifications related to engaging disabled people were important when recruiting new staff.

The results showed that 36% thought they were neither important nor unimportant, despite there currently being 13.9 million disabled people in the UK.

Working with disabled people isn’t currently included in standard PT qualifications. However, 95% of fitness professionals surveyed that this should be included on courses.

Johnson continued: “Research in this field has indicated that health, fitness and sporting environments are areas of life in which people with disabilities arguably have less favourable experiences than their non-disabled peers.

“There is a lack of opportunities and programmes for training instructors to work with people with a variety of disabilities.

“There are also limitations regarding accessible equipment within facilities, due to physical barriers and limited information on, and access to, resources to aid health and fitness. This needs to change.”

Phil Rumbelow of the Jubilee Hall Trust, said: “There needs to be a change in what we think about disability. We’ve got an ageing population that wants to be active for longer, and we need to be able to adapt and engage everyone who walks through our door.”

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Joe Peskett

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