|Associate Director, Amy Rauworth|
We asked fitness and recreation professionals how they promoted their programs to people with disabilities. Responses varied greatly. Programs and facilities that were inclusive and disability-specific reported using the "word of mouth" technique among people with disabilities. They also described utilizing close connections with rehabilitation facilities and other health care professionals. In contrast, many fitness facilities that did not provide programs specific to persons with disabilities did not market the accessible or inclusive aspects of their facilities or programs.
It is always a best practice to include people with disabilities in the development of programs, brochures, and facility design to receive the valuable contributions that can make your endeavors successful. For example, this month we are proud to release Teens on the Move, our new exercise video developed for teens with spina bifida. Prior to the development of this video, the Spina Bifida Association of America conducted focus groups to determine what teens would enjoy. Even if we developed a comprehensive exercise video, if it is not what teens would like or use, our efforts would be wasted.
Moreover, it is also important to include pictures of individuals with disabilities using the facility or the universal accessible symbol on brochures to encourage these individuals to use the services. Listing the contact information for a facility's inclusion services can also be helpful.
*To view our new exercise video, please click on the following link: http://www.ncpad.org/416/2237/Teens~on~the~Move~~An~Exercise~Video~for~Teens~with~
To read more about the research conducted for the development of AIMFREE, please see the reference section of this article.
Why should your fitness facility market to individuals with disabilities?
- Over 54 million Americans, or nearly 20% of the population, have a disability or activity limitation. This is a growing niche market for the fitness industry.
- Approximately 100 million to 125 million Americans have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or obesity that can be improved with a fitness program.
- A large percentage of Americans may require accessible equipment or a program adaptation in order to take advantage of current fitness options.
- A fitness center that accommodates people with disabilities is more likely to benefit from physician and health care provider referrals. In addition, an accessible center will win member loyalty and new member referrals.
- Making equipment or facility alterations that increase overall accessibility can also enhance the usability as perceived by current and future members who do not have a disability or health condition.
- By the year 2050, 1 in every 4 Americans will be over the age of 65. It is estimated that over 50% of this age category will have a mobility limitation. This number is projected to increase dramatically to greater than 70% after the age of 74.
- Any effort to address the needs of people with disabilities is an opportunity to market and expand your membership to a growing population.