Everyone can benefit from regular exercise and staying physically fit, even if they’re permanently or temporarily disabled. Many people who must use wheelchairs for mobility or have other physical limitations still participate in aerobic exercise and cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and weight lifting. Owners and managers of fitness clubs and other exercise facilities should keep this in mind when designing exercise space, choosing equipment and laying out all aspects of their facilities.
The latest revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will require fitness and exercise facilities to be accessible to the handicapped and to make at least some of their equipment accessible to those with physical disabilities by March 2012. The new regulations were adopted more than a year ago, but operators of affected facilities were given 18 months to comply.
Fitness facilities – at least ones which can be defined as “public accommodations” under U.S. civil rights laws – need to consider the accessibility of every aspect of their business, from the parking lot to the bathrooms and snack counters. Many of these are considerations that every other kind of business also has to take into consideration under the ADA and other laws.
Fitness and exercise facilities, however, face special challenges in complying with ADA guidelines. They must figure out how to make sure patrons who have physical limitations can participate in inherently physical activities to the fullest extent possible.
The first step is simply to ensure access to a facility’s exercise machines for everyone. Because those in wheelchairs need a little more space than someone who is on foot, there must be an accessible route by which wheelchair users can navigate through the entire public area of any facility. That means a continuous path through the facility at least 36 inches wide (although 48 inches is highly recommended) and turnaround areas where necessary of at least 60 inches diameter. That includes routes by which a wheelchair can approach exercise machines; in other words, all of the machines can’t be spaced so closely together and close to the walls that a wheelchair user can’t get through to at least some of them. Also, there must be sufficient clear floor space next to the route-accessible machines to allow a disabled patron to use them (i.e., enough room to allow a person to park a wheelchair or other mobility device next to the machine and transfer themselves onto it). The ADA regulations specify that at least one piece of equipment of each type – cardiovascular and strength – will have to meet these accessibility guidelines.
As for the machines themselves, they should be accessible and usable by all of a facility’s patrons to the fullest extent possible. If there are no legitimate safety issues that could preclude a disabled person from using a particular type of machine, there should not be barriers to prevent him or her from doing so. In many cases, this simply means having a bench or seat that folds or moves out of the way to allow someone sitting in a wheelchair or scooter to position themselves to use the equipment. Wheelchair-using patrons, after all, can engage in many upper-body exercises as long as they’re not unnecessarily blocked from doing so. The following are a few examples of exercise machines that we carry that are ADA-compliant:
The fitness consultants at Advanced Exercise Equipment can help you build or modify your facility to be ADA compliant and welcoming to patrons of every kind. Our consultants can provide free layout and design services for your facility and recommend just the right mix of equipment for it. AEE is a top supplier of commercial fitness equipment, including quality reconditioned used commercial fitness equipment. Contact AEE today at 800-520-1112, or e-mail us to find out more.
Posted by Advanced Exercise Equipment