In the latest issue we caught up with Paralympian Ali Jawad, who spent lockdown creating the first ever complete health and fitness app designed and created specifically for disabled people, Accessercise
By Rosalind Tulloch
You may know the name Ali Jawad from his career as a British Paralympic powerlifter. Ali has been powerlifting since he was 16 years old and his talent and determination has led him to securing World and European champion titles, breaking world records and, securing a silver medal in the -59kg category at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, as well as bronze medals in the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Ali is a double leg amputee and he also lives with Crohn’s disease, and as an athlete he has a keen interest in health and fitness. During the pandemic Ali recognised the lack of resources available for disabled people looking to workout independently in their homes. His research led him to identify this gap in the health and fitness market, and he decided to use his lockdown experience to develop an app to tackle the imbalance he discovered in this marketplace.
We caught up with Ali to find out more about the app and how it is transforming the lives of disabled people who are using it to keep fit at home.
Where did the idea of Accessercise come from?
Being born as a double leg amputee and becoming a Paralympian, I grew up in gyms. However, I never asked the question of why I was the only disabled person in the gym, or what barriers were stopping disabled people accessing gym facilities? Also, there were no fitness tools for me to access to allow me to train independently, I had to rely on non-disabled people to guide me. I later found out that there are over 70,000 health and fitness apps available, but none fully catered specifically for disabled people. So Accessercise is the world’s first complete integrated fitness app, especially designed for the disabled community.
How do you use the app?
The app has three key features:
- A unique impairment specific video exercise library tailored to the user’s impairment. Video exercises are performed by exercise demonstrators of the user’s disability, allowing users to create their own training programmes that best suits them
- A Social Hub where users get to share, like, comment and follow user’s fitness journeys to create a real sense of community
- A unique accessibility rating scale where users get to rate the accessibility of gyms and local sports facilities in their local areas
How did you go about developing it?
To develop an app, it was important to think about what features would allow the app to achieve its aim of making exercise truly accessible. However, thinking about features is only part of it, as you need to think about the design, flow, usability and efficiency too. We also needed app developers that understood our vision and aligned to our values. We were lucky to have outsourced the app development to a team that has produced a robust, fully functioning app with the tight deadlines we set for them. The app is constantly making improvements to make sure it’s adaptable and flexible too!
How long did it take?
Incredibly, we managed to get the app live in the UK one year after the first initial idea, which we were so proud of, as we were in a lockdown due to COVID-19 and everything had to be done virtually.
What do you hope people get out of using the app?
The ultimate hope is that disabled people will finally be able to exercise and stay fit on their own terms without relying on other people to guide them. Also, I wanted to challenge the fitness app industry to become more accessible and stop neglecting a community that deserves as much attention as everyone else.
Aside from Accessercise, what’s next for you?
To grow Accessercise is my biggest aim, but I am studying a part time PhD at the University of Birmingham too! I like to keep busy!
If you are looking for an app that will give you exercises tailored to your own specific impairment and allows you to create your own workouts, and take everything at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home, then this is the one for you.
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