Newspaper Misses Mark in Health Club Feature
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
What first caught my eye were the five color photos that appeared on the front page. As I glanced from top to bottom searching for the one photo that represented diversity and inclusion, sadly, it was nowhere to be found. The top and largest photo featured two White females and one male in their late 30s or early 40s using elliptical cross-trainers. The bottom four photos included four males -- three White and one Asian -- exercising or leaving the gym for a new workday. Okay, so an image of someone with a disability working out did not make the front page - par for the course. I turned the page to see if the other 10-plus photos and articles had any representation of disability. None did.
I wonder if the editor gave any thought to the fact that people with disabilities were missing from the feature. My understanding from reading the articles is that she was trying to reach the high-end Starbucks crowd, and certainly that's her choice. But why not include a photo or two of someone with a disability working out? Are there no white-collar professionals with disabilities? Let's wake up and smell a new brand of coffee: There are over 50 million people with disabilities in this nation, many of whom have been shut out of health-enhancing fitness because of the numerous barriers they face getting to and into facilities, finding accessible exercise equipment and programs, and locating professional trainers or instructors they can afford and who know something about their disability. Yet this is precisely the audience that should be targeted by the mega-fitness industry! Because of the difficulty participating in outdoor activities such as jogging, cycling and walking, individuals with disabilities need fitness centers as an alternative way to stay active and healthy.
We have heard time and again from people with disabilities that health clubs are not for them. Why do they feel this way? In part, they say, because of the way most clubs are marketed. Reflecting human diversity does not appear to be a priority. Images portrayed by the fitness industry typically show young or middle-aged Caucasian males or females with muscular bodies or slender figures working out in tightly-fitted clothing. This doesn't do it for many people with and without disabilities who recognize that they need more fitness but don't see these facilities as a viable option.
As a society, we desperately need to find new ways to attract more people with disabilities and those with health conditions such as obesity and diabetes to join health clubs. We know that the fitness industry directs its advertising at those with the highest disposable income - young, white-collar professionals. But that doesn't excuse a newspaper from representing a broader constituency base. One photo or small feature representing someone with a disability in 14 pages of text is not too much to ask for 15 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.