Fitness centers are very important to individuals with disabilities who seek to exercise and maintain their functional muscle groups. This is critical to good physical, as well as mental health, for disabled individuals. For those who can only perform seated exercises, it is important to maintain upper body strength.
Therefore, it is essential that fitness centers and gyms are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This act requires public and private facilities to provide equal access and removal of physical barriers for individuals with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs and other supportive devices.
For gyms, this means that fitness machines should be accessible from either the front or side. At least one of each type of exercise equipment must have clear floor space of 30” wide x 48” long and a slope of 2%, wherein a person in a wheelchair or with a physical disability could be positioned so that they may transfer to the equipment. In addition, strength equipment must also have side and front or rear accessibility.
However, many fitness facilities still lack accessibility for people with disabilities. While many have upgraded their disabled access through walkway widths, bathroom accommodations, railing and flooring choices, and parking, the actual ability to navigate through equipment inside a gym itself remains an issue for those in wheelchairs.
U.S. guidelines for adults with disabilities recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. However, only one-third of people with disabilities participate in leisure-time physical activity.
There exists a strong and urgent need to encourage owners and operators of fitness centers to reach a higher level of accessibility. By providing specific equipment intended for those who can only exercise in the seated position, fitness businesses can not only safeguard themselves against liability, but also attract a new population of patrons as individuals in wheelchairs are always seeking accessible gyms that have the equipment that can accommodate their needs.
The VitaGlide, for example, provides a seated aerobic and strengthening exercise. Through resistance technology that simulates the motions of cross-country skiing (push-pull) or rowing (push together -pull together), the VitaGlide works to increase heart rate and develop upper body and core strength with cardio conditioning, while reducing shoulder impingement. An all-encompassing workout machine, it combines endurance conditioning, a cardio workout, and strength building of the core, oblique, back and arm muscles, and is an incredible addition to any gym seeking to provide an ADA compliant and welcoming environment for wheelchair users.