3f1a0248News of the £380,000 investment came during an awards evening to celebrate the achievements of disabled fitness instructors who have graduated through the scheme and the leisure operators that have provided work placements and employment.

InstructAbility is a project designed by Aspire, the spinal injury charity and delivered in partnership with YMCAfit, to give unemployed, disabled people the training, qualifications and practical experience to gain work in the leisure industry. Over the last four years Sport England has funded a national roll out of the scheme to produce fitness professionals with a vast range of impairments, including wheelchair users, amputees, stroke survivors, deaf and blind people and those with mental health difficulties. Once deployed within the sector they are able to use their unique lived experience of disability to encourage other disabled people to get active.

The National Lottery funding from Sport England will go towards developing a revised delivery model, to embed the InstructAbility programme more effectively within local networks, led by a range of stakeholders including leisure operators and disability organisations.

Aspire will work closely with Sport England to produce an online project management tool. In addition to measuring participation rates they aim to evaluate the impact of the scheme on physical, mental and social well-being of disabled people as instructors as well as activity participants.

Working with hundreds of disabled people and leisure operators has given Aspire a unique insight into some of the best and worst practices in the fitness industry when it comes to training and employing disabled people. Part of the grant will fund an academic research project to produce a ‘best practice’ guidance document for the sector. The project will aim to bring together expertise from disabled people and various organisations seeking to improve inclusion within the sector such as CIMSPA, ukactive , EFDS, YMCAfit and employers.

Lisa O’Keefe, Director of Insight at Sport England, said: “Thanks to National Lottery funding InstructAbility can continue its work to help more disabled people become fully qualified fitness instructors. It’s vital that the fitness sector demonstrates a real understanding of all its customers’ needs, and by having a more inclusive workforce, it is better able to reach out to people who might have thought sport wasn’t for them.”

Hilary Farmiloe, Manager of the InstructAbility Programme at Aspire said, “This is fantastic news and we are looking forward to working with our industry partners on these future developments. The new delivery model will provide greater ownership of the scheme by local stakeholders and the industry as a whole. Coupled with a training and employment guidance resource this will help move the sector even further towards full equality for disabled people wishing to join and progress in the professional workforce as well as participate in fitness activities.”

The Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt MP, who attended the awards evening addressed the audience of industry guests gathered on 20th October at the Village Hotel in Watford. She then presented graduates and placement providers with certificates. The Minister said,

“I’m passionate about making sure that disabled people have every opportunity to reach their full potential. InstructAbility’s great work shows what a powerful tool sport can be in building equality.”

The evening of celebration continued with a special guest appearance by Matrix Ambassador, Joe Townsend. Townsend spoke about his journey from Royal Marine Commando and the catastrophic injury sustained in Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of both legs, to the trials and tribulations of competing in the first ever Paralympic Triathlon in Rio.

Keeping  fun at the forefront of the event, recently trained disabled Clubbercise instructors  took the audience by surprise with a seemingly spontaneous ‘flash mob’ routine with waiters and guests running and wheeling on stage to dance a piece of glow stick choreography set to club music.  The event concluded with special awards being presented to graduates and leisure operators who had excelled in promoting inclusive fitness.

The award winners are:

Spirit of InstructAbility sponsored by Matrix Fitness

Stephen Birkby

Joe Harman

David Morphew

Engagement Award sponsored by MYZONE

Wendy Hall & Portway Lifestyle Centre

Mark Pattenden & Hornchurch Leisure Centre

Development Award sponsored by Right Directions

Kwame Afrik & Aspire Leisure Centre

Sam Brooker, Lee Patmore & Brentwood Leisure Centre