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Disabled-Friendly Gyms: What Needs to Change

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Disabled-friendly gyms

Gyms are places for everyone from all walks of life, but are they disabled-friendly? Not Usually

Many gyms may have some accessibility to allow disabled gym-goers to work out, but most are lacking and staff are not equipped to provide the same level of service as they give able-bodied people.

It’s important to realise having a disability doesn’t mean someone can’t work out. Many can, but they might need help or a more accessible layout to make this possible.

Parking for disabled people at gyms

© Unsplash

The accessibility issues associated with a typical gym layout 

Of course, all gyms differ, but there’s typically a generic layout. Many have stairs with a lift option for those who would struggle to use the stairs, which is a great accessible function. But, a lift alone isn’t enough and, in many gyms, this is where their accessibility ends. 

One of the first stumbling blocks those with mobility issues face in the gym is the proximity of equipment to one another. Exercise equipment is often close together, which can cause problems if someone needs additional space for a wheelchair or other mobility aids. It can also cause a problem for people who have mental health issues which means they prefer space and struggle with having other people too close to them.

Gyms could easily get around this by spacing a small area of the gym out more. A notice could also be left on equipment to explain the reason for their positioning to prevent anything from being moved. 

Another problem disabled people face while working out is heavy doors. However, a simple button to press to automatically open the door could solve this.

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Often parking could also be improved, particularly with gyms in big cities and built-up areas where few parking spaces are available.

Examples of adaptive equipment gyms could use

Part of going to the gym is about making a fitness plan and sticking to it. Yet, if someone with limited eyesight wants to keep track of their progress, most screens can either be difficult or impossible to see. Larger displays, braille and synthetic speech will help them keep track.

For people who can work out alone, but need more extra physical support, equipment with easy-to-reach handles and back support can make all the difference. One example is exercise bikes which have a high back, for those who would cause themselves more pain and discomfort by leaning forward or struggle to maintain their balance.

Disabled-friendly gyms

© Unsplash

Staff and training

It’s also important for staff to create a welcoming environment where all visitors feel accepted and supported. This can be achieved by providing disability awareness training for staff, displaying accessible signage throughout the facility, and offering additional support services, such as fitness classes, or training sessions with personal trainers who have experience in providing inclusive fitness plans.

Trainers and other staff should be understanding of different needs and be able to provide support when needed. This includes providing additional guidance or assistance with equipment as well as being patient while working with clients at different levels of mobility.

It’s more difficult to get other gym members to be understanding and accommodating to people with a range of disabilities. However, if staff adopt an inclusive approach, and provide the necessary adaptations, this shows the gym to be open-minded and welcoming. It would then become the norm to accept anyone who is different from them, with prejudice becoming less common.

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Gyms should be for everyone who needs them. Often, disabled people will use them to stay healthy and improve painful symptoms and prevent or delay further deterioration.

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks Coffee Company announced on February 14th that it will leverage its growing store presence to support and promote the inclusion of partners, clients, and communities it serves. To achieve this, the company has created an Inclusive Spaces Framework, which aims to enhance independence, choice, and comfort for all its consumers and employees: “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all” stated Katie Young, Senior Vice President of Store Operations.

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One of the first Starbucks customers based on the Inclusive Spaces Framework/Starbucks

Starbucks’s Inclusive Spaces Framework has been developed by a distinctive community of customers, workers, partners, and accessibility experts, with the primary goal of providing scalable accessibility solutions for all commercial spaces. This concept began to take shape during the Covid-19 pandemic, where social distancing and the risk of contracting the disease prompted some branches to create specific time blocks. During these blocks, immunocompromised, elderly, and disabled customers could shop in a less crowded environment.

Starbucks inaugurates its first café supported by the principles of the Inclusive Spaces Framework

On February 16th, Washington, D.C. became the first city to open a Starbucks designed to provide accessible service for everyone. These innovations include a multitude of improvements, both physical and digital, that streamline the entire customer interaction process with the establishment and staff, enabling unrestricted access.

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A new employee at the Washington D.C. Starbucks showcasing the facilities/Starbucks

Among these novelties, the coffee company has highlighted updates to the point-of-sale (POS) systems, which have been transformed into portable devices, making it easier for customers to make purchases and acquire products. Through an intuitive design, supported by a voice assistant and accompanied by visual confirmations, this setup caters to the needs of all customers without any distinction.

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On the other hand, this revamped store features new lighting and an improved sound system, both designed to offer a more inclusive experience by avoiding glare and reverberations. Additionally, the order tracking panels in this store have been updated, allowing customers to easily and instantly know which stage of preparation their purchase is in. Furthermore, multiple communication channels have been enabled to notify the customer when their order is ready.

Finally, the store has been designed to ensure the complete independence of people with disabilities when accessing and placing their orders. This is achieved through electric doors, which can be activated by a button at different heights and angles, reducing the effort required to open them. Additionally, continuous, and obstacle-free pedestrian pathways have been created, and the counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchairs, making interaction with employees and the store more accessible.

Starbucks

The new staff at Starbucks in Washington D.C./Starbucks

However, for most retail centers, remodelling their premises to comply with ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations poses a significant challenge. That’s why Starbucks will not only begin remodelling its establishments but also ensure that its framework of inclusion is accessible to everyone, just like its stores. This framework will provide a gradual program for designing inclusive spaces that enhance the retail environment, surpassing the requirements of the ADA.

By: Álvaro Lago

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Kevin Williams, An Advocate Of Disability Rights has passed away at 57

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Kevin Williams, a Colorado civil rights attorney who spent his career fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, died on February 10, 2024 after a brief illness. He was 57 years old.

Williams served as the legal program director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), a non-profit organization that fights for social justice and systemic change for people with all types of disabilities. He joined the CCDC in 1997, shortly after graduating from the University of Denver’s Law School.

Williams was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down following a vehicle accident when he was 19. He used his personal experience and legal knowledge to combat prejudice and impediments faced by persons with disabilities in a variety of settings, including public transportation, housing, health care, education, and employment.

He was involved in various lawsuits and settlements that led to increased accessibility and participation for individuals with disabilities in Colorado and elsewhere. 

Some of his major cases were:

Filing a lawsuit against his own law school for breaching the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and establishing a wheelchair-accessible graduation site.

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Bringing a lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee for discriminating against Paralympic competitors and denying them equitable funding and training opportunities.

Requiring the operators of Red Rocks Amphitheatre to provide accessible parking, seating, and tickets for those with disabilities.

Obtaining a court order prohibiting the Denver Regional Transportation District from purchasing inaccessible buses and ordering them to conform with the ADA.

Negotiating a settlement with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to allow people with disabilities to obtain long-term services and supports in their own homes and communities rather than institutions.

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Williams was also a mentor and pioneer in the disability rights movement, inspiring and educating new lawyers and activists to carry on his legacy. He was known for his enthusiasm, brilliance, and sense of humor, as well as his compassion and regard for others.

Kevin was a brilliant lawyer, a fierce advocate, and a dear friend,” said Julie Reiskin, CCDC’s executive director. “He improved the lives of many people with disabilities and made the world a better place for everyone. He will be deeply missed, but his work will continue.”

By: Rowland Obiosah

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KPMG in Canada Strengthens Employee and Community Commitment For People With Disabilities

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KPMG Canada, a renowned professional services business, has launched its first multi-year disability inclusion action plan for people with disabilities, confirming its commitment to achieving fairness and fostering an inclusive culture.

The Action Plan, created in collaboration with employees, clients, and external groups, details over 40 steps that KPMG will take to support its employees with visible and hidden disabilities, as well as employees who care for persons with disabilities. These activities include improving accessibility and accommodations, raising education and awareness, promoting representation and advancement, and fortifying community connections.

Disabilities

The Action Plan is consistent with the principles of the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to make Canada barrier-free for individuals with disabilities by 2040. It also expands on KPMG’s current inclusion, diversity, and equity strategy, which addresses numerous aspects of diversity such as gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion.

One example of KPMG’s inclusive approach to employee benefits is the everyday living equipment benefit, which pays for equipment or gadgets that help employees with impairments do everyday tasks, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, or prosthetic limbs.

KPMG, one of the largest professional services companies in the world, has launched a pilot program that aims to recruit from the neurodivergent talent pool. This talent pool is a group of individuals who may have neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia. The program aims to foster a more diverse and inventive workforce by tapping into the unique strengths and abilities of neurodiverse individuals.

KPMG has collaborated with Specialisterne Canada, a social enterprise that assists employers in recruiting and retaining neurodiverse talent, to develop this program. Specialisterne Canada provides support and training to neurodiverse individuals to help them succeed in the workplace. By partnering with Specialisterne Canada, KPMG hopes to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for neurodiverse individuals.

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The program is designed to provide neurodiverse individuals with the opportunity to showcase their skills and abilities in a professional setting. It offers a supportive and inclusive work environment that accommodates their unique needs and allows them to thrive.

KPMG’s objective is to represent and reflect the varied communities in which it operates, as well as to foster a workplace culture in which everyone has the chance to join, advance, belong, and succeed. By implementing its Disability Inclusion Action Plan, KPMG intends to inspire people to see inclusion and diversity as sources of strength and value.

By- Rowland Obiosah

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