Inclusive Fitness Means More Than Accessible Bathrooms and Entranceways
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
The need for increased health promotion and in particular, increased levels of fitness, is becoming more and more important for all Americans including people with disabilities. Rising health care costs and a growing budget deficit are pressuring Congress to make substantial cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, increasing the importance of facilitating good health practices among all Americans. The fitness industry can make a significant contribution to reducing the national health care budget by offering programs and services that help people with and without disabilities maintain their health.
The establishment of the IFC extends the outstanding work of our colleagues across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom. A few years ago, a gentleman by the name of Martin Jelen and his son, Gary, who has a developmental disability, launched a campaign to raise awareness among public and private officials in the U.K. of the discriminatory practices toward people with disabilities found in many health clubs. Lottery funds were successfully obtained to formalize the Inclusive Fitness Initiative, or IFI. The IFC will raise a similar level of consciousness in the U.S. and will begin by targeting fitness centers and health clubs and making them aware of how to provide a more disability-friendly environment. People with disabilities need to maintain their health and wellness, and having access to a local fitness center, park, or playground in any community in America should be a right rather than a privilege.
The formulation of the IFC is an historic day for people with disabilities, professionals who work on behalf of people with disabilities, and the fitness industry, which will soon learn that there is a market of more than 50 million Americans with disabilities who are waiting for an invitation to join their facilities. The term 'inclusive fitness' will reflect a state of being that allows an individual in this country to have the right to participate in any form of health-enhancing activity anywhere in the country. It really takes such little effort to reach out to people with disabilities who live in the same neighborhoods and shop at the same grocery stores but who are seldom seen in fitness facilities and health clubs. An inclusive society means access to any goods or services offered in that community. Now more than ever, fitness and recreation facilities, and the programs offered in them, can play a critical role in helping to reduce health care costs by empowering people with and without disabilities to maintain an optimal level of health. An inclusive community must include fitness.