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How Accessercise is revolutionising gym access

News story about an app designed to help Disabled people find an accessible gym.

For this week’s stories we’ve been looking at the relationship between Britain’s Disabled People and the Gym.

We understand how much works need to be done in the sector, and the need for more solutions created for Disabled people by Disabled people. Well, Accessercise is just that – co-founded by Paralympic para-powerlifter Ali Jawad it’s a new mobile app that wants to revolutionise accessibility to sport and fitness for people living with impairments.

Accessercise is staking its claim as the first app fills what Jawad himself describes as a “gaping hole” in the disability fitness market. Recent data from  Activity Alliance showed that only four in ten people living with impairments believe they have sufficient opportunity to be active. Nine in ten people with an impairment also feel that the app market underserves them.

To learn more, we sat down with Sam Brearey, a Co-founder of Accessercise to talk about all things pumping iron:

Why did you create Accessercise?

We created Accessercise to fill a huge hole in the fitness industry in terms of inclusion and accessibility for the Disabled community. Before Accessercise there was nothing to help support, educate and empower the Disabled community on exercising safely and in the best way for their individual needs.

A young woman uses the cable machine at the gym

What challenges do Disabled people face when trying to go to the gym?

We believe this discussion is much wider than just simple access. A gym being accessible to everyone is not just having a Disabled toilet or a ramp for wheelchair access.

For a gym or leisure facility to be accessible and support the whole Disabled community there needs to be informed and educated staff (willing and with the knowledge to help/support) as well as accessible equipment for all impairments.

From a personal training side, the knowledge and understanding needs to be there around how to work with and for the client, not to fear hurting them or worry about what they can do.We hope that Accessercise will not only help people with impairments but act as a guide and a tool for PTs as well.

Has the pandemic changed this?

Research has shown that during the pandemic the gap of inequality has grown a lot. The research shows that one of the largest aspects of exercising and healthy living is social support. Obviously, during the pandemic, this has been even harder for large proportions of the Disabled community to access, which is another reason why we wanted to include the social hub side of Accessercise. Through the app, our community can like, love, comment and share – we want it o be the social support place for healthy living.

Are these barriers getting better – has society made progress?

Society has made some progress yes. However, it is no way near enough, and not good enough progress. Change is often too slow and on too small of a scale to make a real difference.

So often it is down to individual companies and leisure providers to make progress themselves without wider, government or national support. The West Midlands with Mark Fosbrook is an example of an authority which actively drives the inclusion agenda, try new things, and spends time/money to remove barriers.

With Accessercise we want to help highlight these barriers and issues, gather data to support the agenda, and ultimately put the necessary pressure to a government level to start making real change.

How does your app help?

Accessercise has several great functions to help and support. Firstly, we have a specific, unique workout library that is specifically tailored to each impairment. The library shows exercises that have a scientific justification for helping and being safe for the impairment, always demonstrated by someone with that same impairment. It was important to us that the exercises are not generic and are not done in a way that isn’t relatable.

You can then make your own custom workouts, schedule them to your calendar, set reminders and much more. Taking control and responsibility for your own exercise plan. These exercises can then be searched for or filtered based on equipment needed, location (gym, home, outdoors), exercise difficulty, impairment, goal and much more.

Our explore section has all gyms and fitness facilities in the UK mapped out, so you can quickly see available locations near you. We have taken this a step further with our user-generated accessibility scale, you can see which facilities have been given the ‘verified’ symbol of approval, which shows users rate the gym as highly accessible.

We then have the social hub which contains both a personal feed and a group feed for users to like, love, comment and share their workouts and exercises. The personal feed is for your followers and friends, users can then join groups specific to location, impairment etc for wider support and social engagement.

Where will you go from here – what are your future plans?

Accessercise has big plans, we want to expand our list of impairments, eventually, we want to include every impairment and chronic illness. Currently, the list of impairments we want to reach is around 180. We also want to expand the functions on Accessercise, adding in achievements and some special secret developments currently being built.

Users will also see that coming soon will be nutritional information from NHS dieticians, blogs and podcasts from interesting people in the industry, across the disability sector etc and we will also be adding a shop for inclusive equipment and useful products to support our users.

On a wider level, we will also be looking to expand Accessercise across the USA, Canada, Australia, NZL, Germany, Dubai, Ukraine and then across the world in time. I would say we are always happy to hear feedback and ideas to help tailor Accessercise to those using it, so please get in touch with ideas!

A young man looks at the camera whilst sat in the gym

What tips do you have for Disabled people who want to start going to the gym?

The first tip is to download Accessercise! The second is that you don’t necessarily need a gym to exercise and live a healthy life. There is so much you can do at home, outdoors and with the protection of your own space, so if you aren’t ready don’t go to a gym, don’t let that stop you from living a healthier life.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try things and help others help you. Often people are nervous about offering support to not want to offend or cause distress, so work with the staff and trainers to educate them on what you can or can’t do, how things might need to be changed to cater for you. Try going with a friend, to begin with, and share the experience. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to try and take that first ‘step’ on your fitness journey. The first ’step’ is always the hardest!

You can find out more about Accessercise here, or download their app via Google Play or the Apple store.