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Physical & Occupational Therapy
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Physical & Occupational Therapy
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Physical & Occupational Therapy
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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Navigating a Fitness Facility


When people with visual disabilities come to a fitness center, they typically must first arrange some form of transportation to get there. Some people choose public transportation (which can be costly depending on the distance traveled), while others will use a taxi or get a ride from a friend/family member. The added cost of transportation to get to and from the fitness center is something to be considered when setting membership rates for people with visual impairments. Many people who do have to pay for transportation realize they do not have the added cost of a car or car insurance in their personal budget; and therefore do not mind paying for a taxi or other means of transportation to get to a fitness center.

In order to learn how to navigate through a new environment, a person with a visual disability must rely on familiar environmental sounds or audible verbal cues to travel successfully around the gym. Examples of environmental sounds might include the opening of automatic sliding doors, being greeted by employees when entering or exiting the fitness center, working gym equipment, a water fountain, the humming noise of a treadmill, music, people talking, etc.

When people with a visual disability first come to a new facility, they learn how to visualize/or map the area in their mind's eye with verbal cuing or with a tactile map. After people are confident in their internal map, they will give verbal commands to their dogs to follow and find. Sometimes, food rewards (such as a piece of kibble) are given to the guide dog when training them to find objects, such as treadmills, bicycles, classrooms, and lockers. Teaching a guide dog the map of a facility is also important to identify any potential barriers such as a scale, a towel bin, or weight benches that may be an obstacle or danger to the person with a visual impairment.


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