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Gledi Ndreu is a 20-year-old gym user, and following the recent release of the ‘Accessibility and Disability Support across the Leisure and Fitness sector’ report he reflects on his experiences of using a gym.
The recent report, commissioned by TPT, and undertaken by All Able Ltd, is an in-depth look at the state of the nation’s leisure centres and how they serve blind and partially sighted customers.
It also recommends an accessible-by-design approach for leisure centres. That includes updates to website accessibility information, extensive accessibility testing, and collaboration with suppliers who prioritise accessibility.
We asked Gledi how easy was it for him to find a gym to go to and why it is important for him to be physically active.
“It was pretty easy to find a gym to go to as I live in Hackney, and it has many different types of facilities. I believe that having a healthy body will automatically translate to a healthy mindset. In my opinion, the more that people can be physically active, the more likely people are going to have a positive mindset on their everyday life”.
Gledi’s experiences have been positive. He puts this down to the gym staff being knowledgeable about how they can help and the staff being on hand to provide support where he needs it.
His positive experiences began at the outset before he’d even completed a workout. They provided him with a full tour of the facility to ensure that he knew the layout. This helped him to recognise where the toilets, changing rooms and other facilities were located.
Gledi says: “It gave me enormous confidence when the staff took the necessary time to show me how to use the equipment. I was unsure how to use it effectively, and a member of staff took a long time to help and demonstrate the correct form. I know that this has experience has been shared, and new gym goers receive enhanced support to improve their gym experience”.
Before the gym, Gledi could be apprehensive when meeting new people because of his visual impairment. But joining the gym has helped to build his resilience, and has helped him to socialise with different people.
“It is a great place to make new friends from all different walks of life. I have made friends with people that I never thought I would ever be friends with. My confidence has improved because of this”.
Gledi now works full time as a Sport and Leisure Intern, recruited through the Get Set Progress Internship programme. He wants other blind or partially sighted people to have similar experiences to himself. So, he encourages leisure operators and gyms to implement the recommendations within the recent report.
“The recommendations are straightforward, and many are simple to implement within a small amount of time. Making the journey to becoming physically active should always be accessible to everyone. Enhanced accessibility information and awareness would give more blind and partially sighted people the confidence to attend a gym or leisure centre”.
His message to blind and partially sighted people who are thinking of joining a gym is simple, “Just do it! There is nothing to lose from trying out the gym. People within the gym space are friendly and many are willing to offer their help and time. Make your local facility aware of what will make your experience accessible. I did, and they reacted positively and made changes that I hope will benefit others”.