By Daniel Hunter

The InstructAbility programme, providing free fitness industry training for disabled people, offers participants the chance to gain a Level 2 gym instructor qualification and gives support to find employment within the fitness industry. More than 40% of graduates have gone on to get jobs as fitness professionals. Once qualified, instructors undertake a voluntary placement in the industry where they work to encourage more disabled people to get active, making them feel welcome in gyms and sports clubs.

Successful graduates of the programme include individuals with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, limb loss, visual impairment, post-traumatic stress, depression and loss of function caused by stroke, brain injury, osteoarthritis and other conditions affecting skeletal and neuromuscular function.

InstructAbility is the brainchild of Aspire, a leading national charity supporting people with spinal cord injuries and YMCAfit, the leading fitness industry training provider. Driven by a desire to help provide a lasting legacy from the 2012 Paralympics by tackling the under representation of disabled people in the fitness industry, both organisations joined forces over 3 years ago to design and deliver the programme.

Since the 1st pilot course in September 2010:

54 disabled people have qualified as gym instructors, with a further 10 currently in training
29 instructors have so far completed industry placements
14 instructors have been offered employment
6 courses have been launched this year with a further 30 courses scheduled across England following an £854,000 grant from Sport England
Prime Minister David Cameron said:

This time last year we were celebrating the start of the greatest Paralympic Games ever. Today I’m delighted to be recognising the work of a programme which is doing so much to secure the games’ lasting legacy.

InstructAbility is encouraging more talented people with a disability to work in the fitness industry and creating the role models that will inspire others to get active.

Brian Carlin, Chief Executive of Aspire said:

We hope this award will raise the profile of the project and encourage more disabled people to take up opportunities to get involved either as gym users or as instructors. We firmly believe that the way to ensure society becomes more inclusive is to ensure there is equality in service delivery as well as service use.

Denise Page, Head of YMCAfit said:

We are delighted by this award as it recognises the fact that disabled fitness instructors have a lot to offer the fitness industry. Employers are beginning to recognise that a disability does not affect professionalism or skill set. Disabled instructors often have a better understanding of how difficult it is to overcome barriers to improve health and fitness. They often have an enhanced level of empathy when working with clients.

In 2012 the InstructAbility programme was awarded the prestigious Inspired by London 2012 mark and gained the Spark of Innovation award by the Fitness Industry Association.