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Campaign update: how we are working with gyms to make them accessible

We are excited to share the progress Claire Lawrence, our Regional Campaigns Officer for the East Midlands, has been making as she campaigns on accessibility in local gyms and sports facilities.

Image: People run on treadmills at a gym

Claire was initially contacted by local gym member Mohammed, who had been told he could no longer be assisted by staff at his local branch of The Gym due to COVID-19 restrictions. Understandably he was upset, although as Claire pointed out:

"It seems the staff team at the gym felt overwhelmed by new restrictions and therefore felt they didn’t have the capacity to offer assistance."

After speaking with Mohammed, Claire and Ann Webster, Disability and Access Officer at Derby City Council, spoke to The Gym local’s management team, explaining the situation and its need to comply with the Equality Act. The team was very receptive and arranged a meeting to discuss how best they could support Mohammed and other blind or partially sighted gym users. It wanted them to feel safe and confident returning to the gym.

Claire explained:

"The manager at The Gym was incredibly supportive and helpful. He listened to Mohammed’s concerns and requirements and from there we found reasonable adjustments that both parties were happy with."

Now, Mohammed has arranged to call the gym a couple of hours before he intends to train, or the day before, letting the staff know when he will attend.

They will then arrange for a staff member to meet him in reception, guide him to his cardio equipment, agree a finish time, meet him at the end of the session and guide him out again.

Last week, Claire spoke with the gym team who said it was very happy with the outcome, as is Mohammed. Claire will check everything is still running smoothly for him at a later date.

Since this initial incident, The Gym has been extremely receptive to Claire’s campaign. She has been invited to join their visual impairment focus group to provide feedback on what visually impaired gym users want and need, in order to train safely and confidently. The Gym Group is also exploring its options to ensure that all staff are trained in some level of accessibility awareness. In addition, Claire has begun similar work with gym chain David Lloyd Clubs and we will continue to share updates.

Claire added:

"This was a really positive outcome; The Gym Group has been a very proactive company to work with and often this is not the case with larger chains."