InstructAbility is a training programme run by spinal injury charity Aspire, to help disabled people start a career in the fitness industry.
Research shows there is a significant gap between disabled and non-disabled sporting participation because of numerous barriers such as accessibility, how disabled people see themselves and the attitudes of other people.
InstructAbility participants complete a YMCAfit training course to qualify as gym instructors with a disability specialism. They then undertake a 12 week work placement. Afterwards they are encouraged to progress into paid work, with many developing into group exercise instructors, personal trainers, rehabilitation specialists and setting up their own businesses.
More than 300 people have qualified as fitness professionals and volunteered in leisure facilities, thanks to National Lottery funding. These trainers have delivered 70,000 fitness sessions with disabled clients and helped to raise awareness of disability among staff and other customers. Half the participants have moved into paid employment.
Gary Puddifoot, 32, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) ten years ago. With help from InstructAbility, Gary got a job at a leisure centre in Stratford.
At first, I thought people wouldn't listen to me because of my impairment but through the training and the support I received, my confidence as an instructor grew. I found I could relate to people better because I understood the challenges that they were facing. "I absolutely love my job. I have a particular desire to get those with impairments or health conditions involved with fitness, and my story goes to prove that a condition does not dictate what you can and can't do in life
Gary Puddifoot, a beneficiary from Instructability