Course Advert Stoke Mandeville 1 (3) copyA previous patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital has become a successful fitness instructor and now there is an opportunity for other unemployed, disabled people to follow in his path.

InstructAbility graduate, John Smith had been a keen body builder and boxer prior to sustaining a spinal cord injury and he was determined not to let a wheelchair get in the way of keeping fit. John was inspired to become a fitness instructor so he could help other people who have gone through traumatic injury to find a positive way forward.

Aspire, the spinal injury charity and YMCAfit, created the InstructAbility programme to enable disabled people to access free industry training. The project, funded by Sport England, has received widespread recognition with the 2012 Inspiremark, a UK Active Award for Innovation and most recently a Big Society Award from Prime Minister, David Cameron.

John has achieved a level 2 gym instructor qualification and secured a placement at Meopham Fitness Centre in Kent.

John said: “It has been a really good work experience, I have been so busy I have ended up coming in for extra sessions. The InstructAbility programme ensures that disabled people can have the same opportunities as non-disabled people in the fitness industry.”

Centre Manager, Dan O’Sullivan, says: “John has been in great demand with a number of members and new clients keen to be instructed by him on a regular basis. We have had a lot of positive feedback from customers and it has definitely helped with the retention of gym members”.

Whilst John has been training as a gym instructor he has also been pursuing his ambition to become a world class athlete. He explains: “I went to watch the wheelchair racers compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games at Brands Hatch. I saw the reaction of the crowd and realised that this was something I needed to do, no matter what!”

Since then John has been talent spotted by British Wheelchair Athletics Association. John is now demonstrating real potential as a field athlete with discus, shot and javelin performances ranking within the top fifteen in the world.

Hilary Farmiloe, Project Manager for InstructAbility says: “John clearly has a bright future ahead of him and he is a fantastic role model for disabled people who want to keep fit and achieve their goals. The success of the 2012 Paralympic Games has raised aspirations of disabled people as well as changing other people’s attitudes and we believe InstructAbility has a valuable role to play in supporting this long term legacy. We are therefore delighted that we are running the programme at Stoke Mandeville Stadium as the birthplace of the Paralympics. We are inviting disabled people to apply now for the free course that starts in January.”

James Naylor, Contract Manager, agrees that Stoke Mandeville Stadium is an ideal host venue due to its excellent and fully accessible sporting and conference facilities and added: “We hope that this is the start of a very long relationship with InstructAbility and the excellent work that they are doing.”

For more information and to apply go to or call Hilary Farmiloe on 07917 822977