Am I Discriminating When..?

Am I discriminating when I say I teach inclusive fitness classes?

It's been suggested on occasions that I am, do you agree?

When I say my classes are inclusive , it's often followed by a question or two... 'So, who are those classes for then?...or 'Is it just for those people'?' 
Still not sure who 'those people' are, but I would welcome anyone to join us.

What do I mean by inclusive fitness classes? You might well ask. What I mean is that i'm happy for any ability to exercise with us - from newcomer to mixed ability , different ages from 20's through to 80's (which currently is the case) , seated or standing, if you're getting back into exercise after injury or illness , or simply have no idea how to use equipment and are looking for some ideas and just starting out. Let's face it , who really wants to endure the hardest workout on the timetable knowing they
will be sore for the next week? Or two. And never return simply because it was just as hard as you imagined.

I've been asked if i'm a charity? Such ideas that 'if you were a charity , more people would be interested'. Or indeed, if you had funding they would 'gladly trial inclusive classes but wouldn't really imagine any money being made from them' , and so wouldn't like to pay for them to 'see if anyone would be interested in inclusive classes'. Funny that, in the fitness industry worth billions. Yet still re-targeting the same small percentage of participants and members , perhaps there is room for new classes and new ideas without huge expense or refurbishment which could potentially scare some off. Is that perhaps the real underlying issue for and cost? To be inclusive I believe is more of a mindset and thinking attitude , than a spending or equipment attitude. What do you think? I don't need, or use fancy equipment for anything I deliver in exercise, I just ask for space for people to get through the door and to be able to move.

My personal favourite , and repeat phrase I hear is this - 'The thing is, we do that already and we don't need to tell people it's inclusive. There are charities who run specific classes and sports so we don't really get involved with that and you'll have to contact them about it. I don't think it's for us right now'. Love to hear from you when you think the time is right. In the meantime i'm happy to work , volunteer, support and promote towards one of the largest 'special' population groups where 1 in 5 have disability being visible or otherwise who continue to inspire, amaze and push my thinking outside the box to reach their goals. Of course, I always argue the point that surely it's everyone's choice to be involved and share what's available to others. If you couldn't find something in a shop, then you would ask a member of staff where to find it, wouldn't you? So how is it so different to tell people where to find inclusive fitness when the question is asked?

If it's a lack of confidence perhaps in knowing what's available or even what's possible, surely it's better to find out together what IS possible, than 'pass the buck' so to speak and say it's someone else's 'area'. There is much to be said for sharing knowledge.
After all , isn't that how we learn from a young age?. 

Have you noticed articles and headlines about 'improved sector and management roles for disabled' ? 
I'm enjoying reading I've given up mostly on actually trying that. And I'm not one for giving up, anyone who's met me knows that i'm like a dog with a bone. However there are times where I realise I can spend my energy better, this now being one of them.

My expected and common responses I get to enquiries or 'c.v's' mostly consists of.. ' The thing is, you only work part-time and you need to be able to work full-time.' 'You need more experience , it's difficult to work around your hours. ' ' Could you not work full-time if you really wanted to?' 'I can't just let you work those hours and expect someone else to work the rest' 'You can always volunteer to get the experience?' 'It doesn't indicate much experience on your c.v in management roles'.  (let me know if you'd like any of my answers to these lovely examples....) If I suggest flexible hours in the day, or examples of skills and ideas for positions of interest I've applied to, it still feels like a square peg in a round hole situation.

As for volunteering?, it's the best thing I've ever done and continue to do so. Although others can see the benefits of volunteering, I've heard ' I wouldn't do what you do without getting paid. I don't know why you do it ' Maybe that's because you're not me. 
When it comes to employment, how is voluntary time for anyone who's happy to share and progress their ability , considered less important or valued than a paid individual where the skills learnt are the same and possibly just that the times or hours worked are different? Is it any wonder there are less employed disabled individuals, and considerably more volunteers who simply want to do what they can? In fact, according to Scope disability facts and figures 2018, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people.

I am inspired currently and am very proud to be included in the IncludeMeWM campaign with Activity Alliance! Yeay…..joe public is being disability/inclusion-bombed! (as opposed to photo-bombed) Some of the realities of misconceptions and barriers for disabled people are being shared confidently amongst the sport and fitness industry , in a monster effort to build positive promotion for all abilities to be seen, heard and appreciated as people. Social media is great for this.....when it's working in a positive way which this campaign certainly is right now. We should remember though It can also be the ruin of someone's day to the same end, whether you're famous, unknown or simply an individual working out who they are at school amongst friends. Some things, for now, will sadly remain. 

In other news...I look forward to getting sport , leisure and industry magazines through the post, mostly because it's not electronic, and it means I have some excuse to prop up my stick by the kitchen unit while waiting for the kettle to boil. Again.

Wait a minute.....where are all the inclusive , positive images I keep hearing about in these magazines?

I understand that as an industry we all have a part to play in contribution, and we are all different and to be celebrated for that. It appears almost as if unless the article is specific in it's content about disability or inclusion , the images are still the same as we've always seen and almost expect to see. Surely there must be hundreds of images out there of amazing people of ALL abilities who will illustrate the article equally as well. What sort of people do I mean?...gender, age, disability, medical,
religion get the idea. It's commonplace to see 'perfect' images all over social media , magazines and t.v alike , typically setting the scene …… background - fit, muscular individual(s) - pose. Likes x 100000. Individual , outside in the park - disability of any description. Likes x 10.

The intention to inspire is clear , are we missing seeing all the people who are truly inspiring each other by simply getting up in a morning , by getting the prosthetic they've worked hard for , or the sole person who mills about in the gym just to be alone
in company ? 

Could we , as a industry share and realise potential in more people? 

Could we improve fairer visibility for all people to be in any environment? 

Our High Streets , I believe, do a great job in being inclusive , and I can't imagine they planned it. You're thinking what am I talking about now?

Picture this -- YOUR high you have Poundshops , charity shops and Aldi, next to Debenhams and New Look, followed by Nike or Gucci in a watch shop ? I know my High Street does, and i'm glad of it. Offering choice , availability and possibilities for many to be placed equally side by side to shop and buy together.

I can remember when it was 'shameful' to buy clothes from 'George at ASDA' but I always liked them, and frankly it was what we could afford. It's taken forever for food shops to be welcomed as an acceptable way to buy a line of clothing , but they never gave up and look how popular F&F is now at Tesco ! Everything from school uniform, to shoes, jewellery and bedding.
If we keep chipping away at what we believe in , truly believe in, and for me that's inclusive fitness , at some point maybe the world will start to listen and just see fitness as fitness and people as people.

Why does it matter to me? probably think I just sound frustrated or ranting. Maybe i do , but i'm not alone in that frustration.

In 2008 I had a fall which resulted in a life-changing accident and injury resulting in total paralysis from the neck down. You read that right , total paralysis from the neck down. According to Aspire Spinal Charity research every 8 seconds someone suffers
a spinal injury. I have spinal injury too , and I am 1 in 3 people who are told every day they may never walk again.

Fast forward to today, I still use a wheelchair and a walking stick everyday. I wobble sometimes like a jelly , and I am crushed with disappointment other days at how other people look at me. I now know i'm not alone in that , and that keeps me going. 

I'm proud to share exercise with others and be able to say genuinely to each person I meet 'I see you , and all your ability' . We are all people , with thoughts and feelings. So yes, I sound and get frustrated at times. But I've learnt to make it count and share what happens , to build progress wherever I can with others and for others.

I've lost count how many people I've met who say ' I heard about your inclusive classes so I wanted to meet you. I've got spinal injury too'. 

That my friends, is my 'why' .
I like to think of it in ways that " If we only open old doors, we won't find new ways. " 

It's always been said you can't teach an old do neew tricks ...... but we all know that's not true, don't we. 

Wendy Hall. = Inclusive Fitness and It's importance. 


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