Take the Quiz! – How Inclusive is Your Fitness Facility?

Now is the perfect time for gym and studio owners to profit by appealing to one of the biggest, largely untapped markets in the fitness industry – individuals with disabilities.  Many fitness facilities, however, are not equipped to meet the needs of the disability community.

Are you curious if your facility makes the grade for inclusion and accessibility?  You can find out by taking our quick quiz.  This quiz will help you gauge where your fitness facility currently stands in its level of accessibility, as well as the key areas for improvement.

At the end of the quiz, you will have the option to get a FREE copy of The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Fitness Facility More Inclusive.  This guide offers loads of tips to make your facility more inclusive as well as a handy 1-page checklist that you can use to assess your facility’s accessibility and inclusivity and identify areas for improvement.

Just click the button below to take the quiz now!

Button - Take the Quiz

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Webinar Q&A – Getting Fit with a Disability: How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym

Thank you to everyone that joined us on February 28, 2018 for the webinar Getting Fit with a Disability:  How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym.  In the webinar, participants learned how to create a successful self-advocacy plan, effectively communicate with health and fitness professionals, and develop creative solutions that are a win-win for everyone.

If you weren’t able to join us for the live presentation, you can watch the webinar at any time.  Just click the button below to view a recording of the live webinar.

View Webinar Button - View a recording of the live webinar

Also, I want to share answers to the questions we received during and after the webinar.


Q:  Is the approach I take to self-advocacy going to be different if I am just evaluating a new gym that if I am already a member under contract with a gym?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs] If you are evaluating a gym, you are in complete control. If you feel that you are not being heard or that the organization is not willing to accommodate you, you can choose not to join and find another facility. If you are interested in learning more about what look for when you are searching for a fitness facility, I encourage you to go to our website and watch our webinar How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability. You will get some great tips on how to plan your gym search as well as identify “red flags” to look for when touring a gym.

If you already belong to a gym, and specifically if you are in a contract, you don’t have the flexibility to just leave. Therefore, self-advocacy becomes more important. Remember, you have the same right to fully participate as any other member of the gym. That is when developing a more formal self-advocacy plan, like the one we discussed today, becomes more important.

Q:  If I don’t get the results that I need from my self-advocacy efforts, what do I do next?

A: [Jennifer Hobbs]  If you do not get the results that you expect, you have several options.

  1. You may want to investigate more official channels.  This may include filing a formal compliant in writing to the organization’s management. You may also want to enlist the support of a disability advocacy organization to pursue a more formal advocacy process.
  2. If you feel that your legal rights are violated, contact an attorney and consider filing a legal action.
  3. Reassess your strategy and goals. Perhaps take another approach or pursue another issue that is easier to resolve.
  4. End your relationship with the facility. If you are under contract, determine the terms of the contract and terminate your membership when the contract expires.
  5. Finally, you may choose to accept the situation, at least for now,  You may decide that continuing to pursue the issue is not worth your time and effort right now.

What are your questions and comments?  Let’s continue the conversation – share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Male trainer and mature woman talking at the gym

Free Webinar – Getting Fit with a Disability: How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym

One of the best ways to get active is by joining a gym or fitness facility. However, navigating the gym can be challenging when you have a disability. Fortunately, you can overcome these barriers and enjoy safe and effective workouts at the gym. The key is successfully advocating for yourself and knowing how to ask for what you need.

What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is taking action by speaking up and asking for what you need.  Successful self-advocacy involves knowing your rights, understanding your needs, and effectively communicating those needs to others.

Why is it Important?

If you have a disability, self-advocacy can be a critical skill if you choose to exercise at a gym or fitness facility.  Many facilities are not designed with the needs of individuals with disabilities in mind.  Also, many health and fitness professionals are not aware of the needs of individuals with disabilities in these settings.  Therefore, you need become your own best advocate by taking action to ensure that your needs are met.

Self-advocacy helps you:

  • Get what you need (e.g. information, equipment, resources, instruction) to exercise safely and effectively.
  • Make sure your rights are respected.
  • Develop assertiveness and self-determination.
  • Learn to say no without guilt.
  • Express disagreement while respecting the needs of others.

How Do I Advocate for Myself?

The thought of having to speak up for your own interests can be scary.  Fortunately, self-advocacy doesn’t have to be a daunting task.  It is a learned skill that you can master through proper planning and practice.  The key to success is having a solid strategy that gives you the confidence you need take action.

If you are interested in learning how to become your own best advocate at the gym, I invite you to join me FREE 30-minute webinar.  In this webinar, you will learn:

  • A simple 3-step plan for successful self-advocacy in health and fitness settings.
  • Tips for effectively communicating with health and fitness professionals.
  • Problem-solving strategies for developing creative solutions that are a win-win for everyone!

Here is everything you need to know to join me for this exciting event!

Event Details

Webinar: Getting Fit with a Disability:  How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym 
Date:  Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time:  7:00 – 7:30 pm EST
Duration:  30 minutes
Presented By:  Jennifer Hobbs, MS, MBA
President & Founder, IncluFit

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click on the button below:

Register Now - Click this link to register for the webinar

Or click this link to register:
http://inclufit.clickmeeting.com/399251614/register

Can’t attend the live event? No problem! A recording will be made available to all registered attendees after the live event concludes. We’ll deliver it directly to your inbox for easy access and viewing.

I look forward to seeing you on February 28th!

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Diverse group of people with exercise equipment.

Inclusive Fitness: Why It Matters to Your Health and Fitness Business

Have you heard of inclusive fitness?

Inclusive fitness is a newly emerging facet of the health and fitness industry, yet, unfortunately, most business owners and managers don’t understand the overall impact that this could have on the growth and longevity of their business. 

Not only are inclusive health and fitness businesses tapping into this market segment’s spending power, but they are also gaining increased trust and interest from all consumers—those with disabilities and those without.

Ultimately, inclusive fitness is not just about getting people into your facility, but about creating a space and series of programs where all people are welcome and able to participate. Living a healthy and active life should be possible for everyone!

Are you ready to establish yourself as an industry leader? Check this out…

Inclusive Fitness - Why it Matters [Infographic]

 

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Webinar Q&A – New Year, New You: Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability

Thank you to everyone that joined us on January 3, 2018 for the webinar New Year, New You:  Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability.  Throughout the month of December 2017, we asked the IncluFit online community to answer the question “What is the #1 barrier individuals with disabilities face in getting fit?”.  We received tons of great responses!  Here is a sample…

  • “Thinking they can’t do it.”
  • “Courage to do it!!”
  • “Motivation.”
  • “No help.”
  • “Lack of accessible places and understanding, inclusive-minded staff.”
  • “Assumption you will hurt yourself.”

…and many, many more!

It was difficult, but we compiled your responses and determined the top 3 barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in getting fit.  In the webinar, we discussed each of these barriers and identified strategies for overcoming those barriers in the new year.

If you weren’t able to join us for the live presentation, you can watch the webinar at any time.  Just click the button below to view a recording of the live webinar.

View Webinar Button - View a recording of the live webinar

Also, we had some great questions during the Q&A that I wanted to share with everyone.  Here is a recap of the Q&A session.


Q:  You talked a lot about advocating for yourself at the gym and asking for what you need, but how do I know if what I’m asking for is reasonable?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs] That’s a very good question. First, I want to start by saying advocating for yourself can be incredibly challenging especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like to make waves or is afraid of asking for what you need. So, that can be very challenging in and of itself, just to get up the courage to ask for what you need.  Then having the fear of “Is what I’m asking for reasonable or are my expectations skewed? Am I asking for something that’s really not reasonable?” Now, that’s going to depend on what you’re asking for, in what situation you’re in, but I am definitely of the opinion – ask for what you need! However, be willing to have an open conversation with the people. For example, if you’re in the gym and there’s a piece of equipment that would really benefit you that the facility doesn’t have, approach the manager. Have a conversation, but be willing to have a good back and forth. Educate them on why it is beneficial. Help them understand the benefits that it will bring to you and, not just you, but their other clients as well. But, expect that it might not be something that they could do right away. So, always ask. Don’t expect immediate results, but you can, at a minimum, try to work out a plan to see if maybe they could do that in the future. Maybe there’s another option that they could implement right now. So, in my opinion, no request is unreasonable but the important thing is the conversation that you have that you have afterwards.

Q:  How can I tell the difference between pain and just discomfort associated with exercise?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs]  That’s a tough one. That can be a really challenging one, especially if you live your life with chronic pain. It can be very hard to distinguish what is pain from an injury or condition and what is just general discomfort from using your muscles in a different way or being physically active. In general, anything that causes a sharp, acute, sudden pain that makes you wince or makes you immediately feel like you have to stop, that’s probably an indicator that you should stop. That is, something is exacerbating your injury or condition or potentially causing a new injury. Stop, assess, take a break, come back. The sensations associated with physical activity and exercise feel something like a warmth or a kind of a muscle burn or kind of a gradual buildup of fatigue. That’s indicative of a normal response of your body to exercise, particularly exercise that it may not be used to. So, pain associated with injury is usually more sudden, acute, sharp, extremely painful. Pain associated, pain or discomfort, I don’t want to say pain, but discomfort associated with physical activity is generally a little more gradual, not as sharp, and develops over time. But the best way to really determine that is to set small goals and work up slowly. The more slowly that you work up, adding in exercises to your routine, adding intensity and time you’re going to start to develop the sense of what is pain and what is just regular exercise discomfort.


What are your questions and comments?  Let’s continue the conversation – share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Man with a prosthetic leg doing pushups in the gym.

Capture the Disability Market Without Spending a Dime: 12 Free & Easy Ways to Make Your Gym More Inclusive

The New Year is coming up and that means it is time for big business in the fitness industry.  People making their resolutions will be lining up and hopefully signing up for new gym memberships.  This is the perfect time for gym and studio owners to take advantage of one of the biggest, largely untapped markets in the fitness industry – individuals with disabilities.

Disability Statistics

The disability market is large and growing.  If you are wondering how big of a potential opportunity the disability market represents, just take a look at these recent statistics.

Facility owners often balk at the thought of making their facilities more accessible and inclusive.  They often think they must spend thousands of dollars and enormous amounts of time to make changes that will have significant impact.  Frequent thoughts are that you need to buy new, expensive equipment or make substantial changes to the building structure. They are wrong.  You can grow your member base by improving accessibility without making a big investment in time or money.  Here are 12 easy ways to make your gym more accessible without spending a dime.

#1  Turn on Closed Captioning

Many facilities have televisions to provide entertainment in the cardio section.  Monitors and screens also are used in some group fitness settings and throughout the facility to display promotional and marketing content.  If you have televisions or monitors in your facility, one of the easiest ways to make the environment more inclusive is by turning on the closed captioning.  Closed captioning allows members with hearing impairments to understand and enjoy the content on the screens along with other members.

#2  Pick Up Equipment Off of the Floor

Keeping the floors of the fitness areas free from unracked weights and other miscellaneous equipment can feel like a never-ending task.  However, having equipment strewn on the floor not only poses a safety risk for all members, but can be a significant barrier to accessibility for individuals with disabilities.  Individuals with mobility disabilities and vision impairments are at increased risk of injury from tripping on or bumping into equipment that is not properly stored.  Additionally, those using assistive devices such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs may not be able to access certain areas or pieces of equipment if their path is blocked by scattered and misplaced equipment.

One way to reduce the clutter on the fitness floor is to encourage members to return equipment to its proper place after use. This can be done in a number of ways. The easiest, and most common way, is to post signs throughout the facility.  If you have an internal club channel, you may also want to air periodic reminders on the screens in the facility.

It is also important that staff are trained to communicate to members the importance of returning equipment to its proper place after use.  Staff should also be aware of improperly stored equipment when they are on the fitness floor and pick up equipment that is not in its proper place.

#3  Reorganize Equipment for Easier Access

Making a few changes in the way that equipment is stored can make a huge difference in accessibility.  Today’s fitness facilities typically offer an enormous array of accessories and equipment for every type of workout.  Having options such as free weights, medicine balls, stability balls, and kettlebells helps members increase the effectiveness of their workouts while adding variety.  This leads to happy members!  It’s great to have all of this equipment, but it is only valuable if people can actually use it.  Take a look at how you store your equipment and ask yourself the following questions.

1. Is your equipment stored in a narrow space (e.g. a closet or equipment room) or behind other objects (e.g. other equipment, machines)?  Would an individual using a mobility device, such as a wheelchair or scooter, have a clear path that is wide enough to access the equipment? 

When equipment is stored in narrow and small spaces it becomes exceedingly difficult for individuals that use a wheelchair or assistive device because they don’t have enough room to maneuver.

2. Is your equipment stored on high shelves?  Could a person using a wheelchair or an individual of short stature safely reach the equipment? 

Reaching overhead can be difficult for individuals with certain orthopedic and neuromuscular disorders, as well as those with balance issues. High shelves also pose a problem for those that use a wheelchair or are of short stature as they can’t reach the equipment.

3. Is your equipment stacked on top of each other?  Would an individual with mobility or balance issues be able to safely remove and replace the equipment?

Equipment that’s in disarray is a tripping hazard for those that are balance-challenged or visually impaired, as well as a stability issue for wheelchair users.

Once you assess your space, you can move things around to make them more accessible.

#4  Keep a Clipboard at the Front Desk

The first thing most people see when they come through the front doors is the reception counter or front desk.  Ideally, the reception counter is low enough or, at a minimum, has a section low enough to allow for an individual using a wheelchair to roll up and use the desk surface to fill out paperwork, etc.  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an accessible counter is at least 36″ long and no more than 36″ above the floor with a 30″ by 48″ space in front of the counter to accommodate a wheelchair or electric scooter.  Unfortunately, many reception counters are rather tall, with the counter surface at around the chest-level of person standing.  If your front desk does not have an area low enough for a person in a seated position to use, an easy fix is to have a clipboard (or a computer tablet if your facility is fully-digital) handy.  The front desk staff member can come around the front of the desk to speak with the member and the member can use the clipboard in his or her lap as a writing surface.

#5 Make a List of Accessible/Universally Designed Equipment and Accessories

Staff should be aware of the facility’s accessible and universally designed equipment and accessories.  Here are some examples:

  • Accessible equipment:  arm-crank ergometer or handcycle
  • Universally designed equipment:  Lat pulldown machine with removable or swing-away seat
  • Adaptive accessories: Gripping gloves and foot plates or pedal straps for bicycles

#6  Move Magazines and Promotional Materials Closer to the Floor

Move items like magazines and promotional materials within reach of seated members and individuals of short stature.  Often times, magazines and promotional materials such as brochures, flyers, and class schedules are stored on high countertops or in tall display racks.  Simply moving these materials to a lower rack or table can make them accessible to all members.

#7  Secure Entryway Mats and Rugs

Make sure entryway mats, rugs, and other floor coverings lie flat and are securely fastened to the floor. Doormats, rugs, and other floor coverings that are frayed, have curling edges, or are not firmly attached to the floor pose a safety risk for all members.  However, unsecured floor coverings are particularly treacherous for individuals with disabilities.  Individuals with visual or mobility disabilities can easily trip or slide on loose floor coverings.  Unsecured mats and rugs pose both a safety hazard and an accessibility challenge for people that use a mobility device.  They can easily get caught up in the wheels of a wheelchair or scooter or snagged under the legs of a walker or a cane.

#8  Make Sure Parking Areas and Walkways are Clear of Obstacles

Your sidewalks, parking lots, and entrance areas may meet the ADA requirements, but be aware of temporary barriers that can create obstacles and limit access to your facility.

Some examples of temporary barriers that may limit access to your facility include:

  • items like bike racks, planters, sidewalk signs, and trash cans that block part of the sidewalk or the pathway to the accessible entrance. Remember that an individual using a wheelchair or other mobility device requires a wider clear path to maneuver than does an individual on foot. The ADA requires the clear width of walking surfaces to be a minimum of 36 inches (915 mm) wide. Obstacles that can be easily avoided or stepped around by an individual on foot can be an insurmountable barrier for a customer using a mobility device.
  • uncleared snow and untreated ice on sidewalks and in the parking area. Snow and ice in and around accessible parking spaces and on accessible pathways can make access difficult or impossible for a customer with a disability.
  • parked delivery trucks or construction vehicles. These vehicles may block accessible parking spots, access to sidewalk curb-cuts, and accessible entryways.

Regularly checking the parking areas and walkways and removing any temporary barriers can go a long way to improving the accessibility of your facility.

#9  Make a List of Accessible Transportation Options

Getting to and from the facility can be a significant barrier to individuals with disabilities.  One way you can make it easier for individuals with disabilities to use your facility is by providing members (and potential members!) with a list of accessible transportation options.  Compiling the list may take a little research, but it can go a long way in making your facility more accessible.  You may have the best equipment, instructors, and programs – but none of that matters if your members can’t get to you!

When creating a list of accessible transportation options, here are a few things to consider:

  • Public Transportation
    • Is the facility on a bus or train route?
    • Are there local paratransit services available?
    • How far is the facility from the nearest bus/train stop?
    • Is the route from the bus/train stop to the facility entrance accessible?
  • Walkability/Accessible Sidewalks/Paths – Are there accessible sidewalks or recreation paths that allow for easy access on foot, by bicycle, or using a wheelchair or scooter?
  • Parking – Are there adequate accessible parking spaces available?  Even during peak times?

Have it available in printed form, large print or Braille, and online.  Keep one at the front desk to hand out to people coming into the facility or for reference when prospective members call to ask questions about the facility.  Make sure the front desk staff are familiar with the transportation options to more easily assist customers.

#10  Include Images of Individuals with Disabilities in Promotional Materials

Joining a gym or fitness studio is as much about community as it is about getting fit.  All members want to feel like they belong and are part of the facility’s culture and community. Next time you are putting together a new marketing campaign, consider including pictures of individuals with disabilities in marketing and promotional materials.  Seeing individuals with disabilities in your mainstream marketing lets prospective members with disabilities know that your facility is inclusive.  It assures them that they will feel welcomed by the gym community and comfortable in the environment.  It also demonstrates that inclusion is a priority for your organization.

#11  Create an Organizational Inclusion Policy

There is no better way to let prospective members know that you are committed to inclusion than to put it in writing.  Create an “inclusion policy” that reflects your organization’s Include the policy in the employee manual, on the company website, and in appropriate company reports and documents. Add an inclusion statement to your membership documents.  Let members know that your organization supports an inclusive environment and people of all abilities are welcome.

Make sure that the policy is communicated to all levels of the organization – from support staff to upper management.  Most importantly, remember that words are worthless unless the principles behind the words are put into action. Let employees know that they are expected to demonstrate the values inclusion on the everyday on the job.

#12  Provide Exceptional Customer Service

The best thing you can do to make your facility more inclusive is provide exceptional customer service.  Treat everyone that comes through your doors with courtesy and respect. Smile, be welcoming, listen, and be willing to adapt.

In Conclusion

Make the commitment to improve the accessibility and inclusiveness of your facility in the new year.  With a minimal investment of time and money, you can increase sales while making a difference for your members.