As the calendar flips to a new year New Year's resolutions are underway. Among the most popular resolutions is the commitment to go to the gym to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
For a majority of the population, it becomes part of a routine: throw on your workout gear, run to the gym and break a sweat. But have you ever wondered why you do not often see people with disabilities in gym facilities?
In this blog, we discuss some of the specific accessibility barriers that people who are blind or partially sighted often encounter in their quest to access and utilize gym equipment.
Navigating through a gym can be challenging for anyone, but it becomes even more of a complex challenge for someone who is blind or partially sighted, as the gym environment is often filled with physical obstacles such as pieces of equipment left in walkways. Busy hallways and corridors prevent people who are blind from manoeuvring their canes properly. It is stressful when people have to navigate through busy hallways and corridors when they can't see if there is an obstacle before them.
Additionally, most gyms have little to no accessible signage like Braille or tactile signage, and tactile pathways to assist people who are blind or partially sighted with indoor navigation. This can lead to confusion and frustration, and difficulty in finding essential areas within the gym such as washrooms and changing rooms.
Also, poor or inconsistent lighting can be particularly challenging for people who are partially sighted, as it makes it difficult for them to locate specific fitness zones, and find available equipment.
Moreover, larger gym facilities often lack accessible elevators equipped with audible announcements, well-designed buttons with Braille, large fonts, and tactile elements to help users who are blind or partially sighted select floors and move safely within the facility. On staircases, the colour contrast at the edge of steps is not always high enough to accommodate people who are partially sighted.
Many pieces of gym equipment provide feedback visually, through digital screens and displays. These visual interfaces are inaccessible to people who are blind or partially sighted, making it nearly impossible for them to use gym equipment effectively. Without tactile markers or accessible screens, they will not be able to adjust settings, track their progress, or use gym equipment safely.
For example, most treadmills use a control panel with no tactile markings or auditory cues. They also have display screens and control labels that are often labeled in small fonts and have low contrasting colors that people who are partially sighted may not be able to read. Because of the inaccessible design, it is nearly impossible to utilize all of the machines features efficiently and independently like knowing the current speed, duration of the workout, and/or the heart rate, among other stats.
When gym facilities do not make an effort to properly label their equipment with clear, tactile/Braille, and high-contrast instructions, they indirectly prevent people who are blind or partially sighted from using the gym. Without tactile or Braille labels, or easily distinguishable features, people who are blind may have trouble identifying the machines they want to use, adjusting settings, etc.
Gym staff often lack the training and awareness required to effectively assist people who are blind or partially sighted. In fact, they have the responsibility to create an inclusive environment, but they may inadvertently create barriers if they are not properly trained. They may not know how to assist or guide when needed, which can lead to feelings of exclusion among potential gym subscribers. Therefore, creating a less welcoming environment.
By committing to remove these barriers, you can guarantee that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle through regular gym workouts. It is time to make fitness truly accessible to all.