Fitness venues and accessibility

Ways that gyms and fitness venues can be more disability inclusive and accessible.

Kate Maslen
3 min

Some ways to make your gym or fitness venue more accessible

  • Ensure that all equipment is fully accessible. This includes ensuring that there are no steps between you and the equipment, as well as providing any necessary aids to help people use it.
  • Make sure that changing rooms are fully accessible. This means making sure they have enough space and do not contain any hazards, such as sharp corners or slippery floors.
  • Ensure that toilets are fully accessible so that those with disabilities can access them easily. Make sure there's space for wheelchair users or those with mobility impairments in the toilets so they don't feel confined if their wheelchair needs space beside them while they use it, for example.
  • Offer a range of classes for different types of disability - not just one class! For example, offer several different beginner classes so that everyone has something suitable for them (elderly people might prefer water aerobics whereas younger people may prefer strength training).
  • Ensure all equipment and instructions are clearly labelled and visible throughout the gym.
  • Ensure that all Televisions have closed captions on for those with vision impairments.
  • Consider having quiet hours at your gym where the music gets turned down or off and lights are dimmed. You can also advise people when your quiet periods typically are, where there is the least amount of clients typically in the venue. This would be hugely beneficial for those with sensory sensitivities attending your gym and may encourage them to come more regularly. It will also ensure that you start filling those quiet periods with more regular clients - it's a win-win!
  • Ensure trainers are properly trained in how to train and support clients with disabilities.

People with disabilities should have access to all kinds of exercise classes.

You should be able to access all kinds of exercise classes. You shouldn’t have to miss out on the fun things in life just because you have a disability, and that includes going to the gym!

Here are some examples of accessible classes:

  • Zumba with an instructor who can teach simple dance steps using sign language or visual cues.
  • Water aerobics for people with mobility issues. This could be done in shallow water with stand-up paddles so everyone can participate safely, regardless of ability level. It could also use adaptive equipment like floats and other aids that allow people with limited mobility to get up and down from a pool safely (some people might need additional help getting out of the pool).
  • A class focused on stretching exercises for those who have trouble moving their bodies fully —these stretches require minimal movement from arms/legs/torso area but still provide plenty of benefit!
  • People with disabilities should have access to all kinds of exercise classes—from cardio and strength training classes to yoga, Pilates, or even dance classes—all while being supported by their trainers. That way they don’t feel like they have to choose one type of workout over another because their disability makes them less able-bodied than other gym-goers.

A wide range of inclusive sports should be included in your program.

Inclusive gyms should include sports that are accessible to people with disabilities. Sports include wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair dancing, wheelchair tennis (the most popular), wheelchair curling (a form of ice hockey), wheelchair ice hockey and wheelchair rugby. Other sports include fencing and ultimate Frisbee. 

Each of these has its own difficulties associated with it such as limited hand dexterity for those who use wheelchairs or no upper body strength due to paralysis in one arm that makes it difficult for some players on teams like rugby and soccer where hand-eye coordination is important (although there are ways around this). 

But all these challenges may seem minor compared with what some people go through every day just living their lives as best they can despite whatever health challenges they face.

Inclusive gyms and fitness venues will help change attitudes towards people with disabilities.

One way to change attitudes is to make it easier for people with disabilities to become more independent. Inclusive gyms can help with this by providing equipment that is accessible and easy to use.

You might also consider creating a gym where you're not limited by restrictions like time of day or location. For example, you could create an inclusive gym in your own home so that there are no rules about when or where you can go for a workout. This would allow people with disabilities more flexibility in their lives without having to worry about whether or not their gym will be open at whatever time they want it open!

Make sure you advertise your gym or fitness venue as accessible.

List the accessible services and physical accessibility offerings your gym provides on your website so people know you are inclusive. You might also consider posting signs that clearly display your gym’s accessibility features and services around the gym itself.

Join the Ariel App and list all of your gyms accessibility offerings and services so potential clients with disabilities can find them easily on the app!

You can register your business through the Ariel Business Portal

Article by

Kate Maslen

Kate is one of the founders of Ariel and a Support Coordinator

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