Accessibility at Everyone Active

During our accessibility awareness week we are on a mission to bring people together to delve into a broad range of accessibility, diversity and inclusion topics. To find out more about inclusive fitness we caught up with Erin Flower, Group Marketing Manager, at Everyone Active.

Everyone Active is the longest-established leisure operator in the UK and manages over 200 leisure centres. Their mission is to encourage everyone to participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity either in a centre or via online training, five times per week. Read our Q&A with Erin below.

Who are you?

My name is Erin Flower and I’m the Group Marketing Manager for Everyone Active. My role is a varied one, ranging from co-ordinating printed media for our 200+ nationwide centres to managing the brand and tone of voice across print and digital assets, including social media and content for the website. This of course also encompasses helping to ensure that all our marketing materials – whether digital or printed – are as accessible as possible.

What does accessibility mean to you?

To me, accessibility means ensuring that all facilities – whatever they are – are available to everyone, regardless of age, race, disability (or ability) or anything else. These facilities can be both physical and ethereal. So, for example, anyone should be able to use a cinema, restaurant, website, enjoy music or, indeed make use of their local leisure centre regardless of any of the factors outlined previously.

Why is inclusive fitness important to Everyone Active?

If we here at Everyone Active didn’t believe in inclusive fitness, then our mission to help everyone get active for at least 30 minutes, five times a week wouldn’t mean anything. We also like to see our centres not just as leisure centres for people to use when they wish, but as centres of the community in which they are based as well. This means people come to socialise, they bring their children for swimming lessons, or they come in order to help themselves recuperate from illness or injury.

Everyone Active doesn’t just provide facilities to individuals, but a service to entire communities up and down the country. These communities are made up of people of all ages and fitness levels, both disabled and able-bodied people and it’s our responsibility to ensure that, as far as possible, everyone gets to enjoy our centres.

Why is diversity and inclusion important to you?

Once again, it’s important to me because I believe in Everyone Active’s mission to get more people doing 30 minutes of activity, five times a week and that includes everyone. Regardless of age, fitness ability, race, or whether someone’s disabled, or able-bodied, we all have the right to an active lifestyle and it’s part of my role – one that’s very important to me – to make sure everyone has that opportunity.

How has Everyone Active tackled the increase in online activity to make sure they continue to be inclusive?

Everyone Active’s digital offering is a vital part of what we bring to the table and it’s important that everything we do online is as accessible as possible. One of the most important ways in which we do this is implementing the Recite Me toolbar.

This helps to break down some of the most common barriers to accessibility in the digital space. It does this by translating the content into a number of different languages, enabling the content to be read aloud for blind and sight-impaired users and slightly altering the styling of the website to make it easier for those with learning difficulties to read and use the website.

That’s not all, however. Everything – both in digital and print formats – is written in a clear and concise manner to make it as easy to read as possible and all images on the website are tagged with descriptive alt texts to allow the screen reader to describe the picture accurately.

We also understand that while people may wish to stay active, they may not be able to get to or could be uncomfortable in our centres. That’s why we also host free workout sessions on our social media pages. These include everything from exhausting Les Mills BODYCOMBAT classes to seated workouts for people who experience mobility issues.

Everyone Active also has a digital-only offering called Everyone On Demand, which offers a huge variety of classes that are designed to suit everyone regardless of age, mobility or fitness level. It’s been designed as a 360-degree solution and includes an app that concentrates on mindfulness so our members can concentrate on their mental health, as well as getting active physically.

Can you share an example of providing support for someone with additional needs?

Everyone Active is dedicated to ensuring all our members get the most out of their time with us – whether that’s in centre or interacting with us via one of our digital platforms. With that in mind, centres in Stratford-upon-Avon have recently introduced the ‘Quiet Hours’ initiative to help support members with autism.

Stratford Leisure Centre, Shipston Leisure Centre, Southam Leisure Centre and The Greig Leisure Centre have all implemented this initiative to help make the centres more welcoming to people living with autism. The initiative will introduce dedicated hours of no loud music or loud noise in their gyms in an effort to create a more welcoming, calmer environment for people on the autistic spectrum.

But that’s not all that’s going on in Stratford. They’re also running dementia awareness workshops for colleagues to help make them more mindful of members who may be suffering with the condition. The centres are also fitted out with IFI (Inclusive Fitness Initiative)-accredited equipment in the gym to help make fitness more accessible for people with additional needs, while a major 2015 refurbishment of Stratford Leisure centre was done in consultation with Accessible Stratford. This helped ensure it met the needs of the entirety of the local community.

What do you hope for the future for activity centres in terms of accessibility?

While we always try the best we can, there is always room for improvement. In some of our older centres, we are constrained by physical factors in that structurally we can’t make certain doorways or corridors wider, unfortunately. With every new build, however, and every refurbishment, we are working hard with organisations including the Accessibility Alliance to make sure our centres are accessible is one of the key focuses of any new centre.

Looking into the future, we’re always looking for new ways to provide more accessible services for our members. With that in mind, we’re partnering with a company called Synergy Dance. With Everyone Active, Synergy Dance will offer a range of digital dance and Yoga classes designed specifically with those with special needs and disabilities in mind.

The company’s passionate and dedicated team ensures no one is left behind, ensuring the benefits of Synergy Dance, such as improved creativity and self-esteem, enhanced coordination, and developed teamwork and leadership skills, are felt by everyone. Workouts and courses are further tailored to suit the needs of children, adults and seniors experiencing long-term health conditions, with exciting classes such as audio dance and Yoga for the blind and visually impaired.

This is just one way in which we here at Everyone Active are working to improve the accessible services we offer. We’re always looking to make things better and that, to me, is exciting. We don’t just offer services to a certain strata of society, but we want our sites to be open to everyone and be centres of the community in which they are based and I think with every passing year, we are making progress towards making that a reality.

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