Monday, 22 July 2013

Young disabled people are finding it difficult to access sports leisure facilities in the region.

Young disabled people are finding it difficult to access sports leisure facilities in the region.
From Big Issue in the North magazine 
A report by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s national group of 500 disabled 16-30 year-olds criticises leading gym chains for seeking to charge disabled customers full membership prices whilst failing to provide complete access, usable equipment and inclusive classes. There is also a lack of information about what the gyms can offer.
David Gale, 29, a civil servant from Carlisle, has Becker muscular dystrophy. This is a progressive muscle weakness that means he is not currently wheelchair bound. Exercise and activity are encouraged for him. On a good day the keen Carlisle United fan is able to walk the ten minutes to Brunton Park to watch his favourites; on other occasions he uses a taxi.
He said: “I have found that gym facilities are very mixed. Some have too many stairs and lack fitness equipment designed for disabled people. There are firms who manufacture such equipment so it should be easy to purchase it.
“Not many instructors appear to have experience of working with disabled people and if so they should be provided with specialist training.”
Staff attitudes are a concern for Carrie-Ann Lightley, 25, from Kendal, who has cerebral palsy. She said: “I want to do Pilates but often instructors aren’t used to dealing with individuals
with disabilities and the general attitude may not be as inviting. If staff were made more aware of the importance of offering sport to disabled people it would encourage more people to go.”
A report by the Sport and Recreation Alliance in 2012 revealed that following the Olympics only 11 per cent of sports clubs had seen an increase in the numbers of disabled people joining.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC), two out of three young disabled people can’t use a gym owing to a lack of appropriate equipment, yet three out of four say better access would encourage them to participate. Eighty per cent believe there must be more active engagement from local gyms, starting with more accurate information.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Disabled People recently held a meeting to discuss the concerns of the MDC group of young people, known as Trailblazers. Most major leisure chains failed to send a representative, with only David Lloyd Leisure participating alongside the English Federation of Disability Sport and disabled sports charities Aspire and Interactive. MDC is hoping that firms such as Virgin Active, Fitness First, Soho Gyms and DW Sports will attend the follow-up meeting in the autumn.
Pool hoists
Virgin Active’s website states: “Everyone’s welcome. Young or old. Fit or unfit. It’s all good.”
There is though no mention of facilities or access for disabled people. The Big Issue in the North asked the company about this and whether Virgin Active has given any consideration to opening up its facilities for disabled people.
A Virgin spokesperson replied: “Thanks for highlighting the missing website information, which we are now reviewing and will be changing. The majority of our clubs offer facilities that include disabled toilets, lifts, accessible changing rooms, pool hoists and disabled fitness equipment.
“A number of disabled athletes train in our clubs and disabled members are able to bring their carers to training sessions at no extra charge.”

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