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Disability report blasts leisure centres over accessibility

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UK leisure centres are not doing enough to ensure their facilities are accessible for older people with sight issues, causing many to become inactive, according to a new report.

Physical Activity among Older People with Sight Loss, produced by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School and Loughborough University, interviewed older people with sight loss about their experiences of trying to stay active. All the participants felt a deep sense of loss at having to reduce their physical activity because of sight loss.

“They want to stay fit, mobile and independent but the research shows that they are unfairly disadvantaged,” said Dr Catherine Dennison from sight charity Thomas Pocklington Trust, which released the findings.

“A determined effort is needed by all those providing physical activities to make them accessible to all."

Forty-eight people with sight loss aged 60 and over were interviewed as part of the study. Although eager to remain active, these people were hampered by barriers such as other mobility issues, transport difficulties, cost and lack of social support, preventing many from taking part.

Interviewees reported that leisure facilities were often inaccessible and unwelcoming to people with sight loss. Recommended improvements included better signage, good lighting and removal of potential obstacles, both inside and outside of the building.

"Not enough people are active and this comes at a cost to their health and wellbeing as well as to the NHS,” said Loughborough University’s Dr Brett Smith. “Yet, despite changes in the anti-discrimination law, gyms and other spaces to be active in are often inaccessible.”

In closing, the report notes the growing number of older adults living with sight loss, calling for this group’s needs to be given greater consideration and a wider range of physical activities to be offered in order to boost participation levels.

The findings echo a recent report from the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), which found that that the majority of current sport and physical activity initiatives aimed at disabled people fail to engage audiences effectively.

To read a feature on how gyms and leisure centres can embrace best practice to become more inclusive – from the September 2011 edition of Health Club Management click here.

What do you think? Are leisure centres and gyms making progress or is there plenty more to be done? Get in touch by emailing newsdesk@leisuremedia.com

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UK leisure centres are not doing enough to ensure their facilities are accessible for older people with sight issues, causing many to become inactive, according to a new report.
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Many older people with impaired vision find that barriers are preventing them from exercising / De Visu / Shutterstock.com
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