Did you know 15% of group exercise attendees identify as having a disability or long-term health condition? These people are likely attending your classes already, and you may not even know!

Creating an accessible group exercise class is crucial to ensuring more people benefit from health and wellbeing.

Read on to find info on what accessibility is, what it means to people, and how you can create accessible classes.

An accessible door push to open button

What is accessibility?

Accessible technology and communications company SeeWriteHear define accessibility as:

“The practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible.”

Are accessibility and inclusion the same thing?

Although related, accessibility and inclusion are slightly different. Accessibility is about practical steps you can take to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to take part. Inclusion goes further, focusing on creating a culture of acceptance, understanding, and respect that enables people of all abilities to join in.

At its heart, accessible fitness is about giving everyone an equal chance to enjoy physical activity. Breaking down barriers means eliminating or reducing any obstacles that may stop someone from taking part in the class – whether it’s a lack of equipment or not having enough space.

What accessible features might a venue have?

Accessible features in a fitness class venue may include:

  • Access ramps
  • Self-operating doors
  • Hearing loops
  • Large and high/contrast signage
  • And more

The Equality Act 2010 says that venues must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people are not at a disadvantage when accessing sites.

If you want to learn more about reasonable adjustments, watch this short video below from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Is my group fitness class venue accessible?

Ask yourself this: getting in, out, and around your venue may be easy for you, but what about your class attendees?

Put yourself in your participant’s shoes. Do a venue walkthrough from the building exterior right into the room that you’ll be teaching in. Don’t take it for granted that your room is accessible just because the venue entrance has a ramp. You may encounter heavy doors, steps, or narrow corridors which could be barriers to people with wheelchairs, people with mobility issues, people with sight loss, and more.

Scope, the disability equality charity for England and Wales, has a great guide to checking venue accessibility here.

Go beyond ticking a box

It’s not as simple as ticking a checklist for accessibility. It’s important to make sure that any features in place work and are fit for purpose. For example:

  • Check that the accessible toilet isn’t being used as store cupboard.
  • Make sure people on site (and yourself!) know how to use the hearing loop.
  • Ask when the scheduled maintenance for lifts and self-operating doors is so you can work your class schedule around them and/or forewarn your classes.
  • Where the venue has accessible parking spaces, ensure these are truly step free – i.e., no curbs prohibit access from car to venue entrance.

More information

Find more information in the following links:

Over to you!

Accessibility is about equity. It’s about giving people the tools they need to have a high-class group exercise experience, just like anyone else. With a little bit of planning and thought, even more people can reap the benefits of your fitness classes.

Did you know…

We’ve written a whole resource on disability! Packed full of top tips and information, it’s your guide to understanding your responsibilities.

Download here