Our goal is to get more people, more active, more often
Better Energise Leisure Centre in York recently received training in how to support blind and partially sighted visitors. They shared with us the importance of vision awareness for staff and why they will be rolling out the Inclusive Facilities training, recently launched by UK Coaching and Thomas Pocklington Trust, to all of their staff.
Having installed clear signage with braille, an audio loop on reception and accessible treadmills, the centre was the first leisure operator to get IFI accreditation (Inclusive Fitness Initiative).
Visual awareness training has profound impact on staff
In September Thomas Pocklington Trust, together with York Sight Loss Council, provided training to some of the leisure centre’s team specifically on how to support and guide blind and partially sighted people.
Martin Symcox, National Sports Development Lead at Thomas Pocklington Trust, who attended the session said: “Energise Leisure Centre was already really good. It has markings on floor to help aid navigation for partially sighted people. It is tidy with gym kit stowed away where it is meant to be. They have all doors open rather than some open and others closed, which also helps. So, they were already doing a lot of good things in terms of accessibility for blind and partially sighted people.
“But the training helped to give staff additional confidence – like how to ask someone what support they might need, how to do sighted guiding and the importance of meeting and greeting a visually impaired person.”
Kelly McTighe, Energise Gym Instructor, said: “Prior to having the training, I probably would have been a little bit nervous about asking a visually impaired person how they wanted to be supported. Fitness should be inclusive. We should be welcoming everybody, regardless of their ability.”
Lucy Barrett, Assistant Manager at Energise Leisure Centre, said: ”I already had some knowledge of how to support people through my work as a fitness instructor but I appreciate now the importance of introducing ourselves by name and introducing the visually impaired customer to other staff. I think it is really important that all staff are trained. So if a certain staff member is off, everyone knows how to support and guide.
“We try to ensure we always have a member of staff available so that visually impaired people know there is someone there to support them. If they know all leisure centre staff are trained, they may have more confidence to come to the centre.”
Inclusive Facilities toolkit
UK Coaching and Thomas Pocklington Trust launched the new toolkit for sports and leisure operators:
Featuring Better Energise Leisure Centre in York, this free resource contains videos and tips other leisure operators can use to train staff.
Lucy said: “The training on the UK Coaching website is great. I would definitely recommend it to other leisure operators.
“Often people are unsure about what to say and nervous about saying the wrong thing. This training gives staff confidence in communicating with visually impaired people, improves understanding of visual impairment and provides tips on how to create an accessible environment.
“My advice to other leisure operators would be to ensure all their staff go through this training. For example, our reception staff are not yet trained how to support visually impaired people and these would be the first people to meet and greet them. I will be recommending all our staff do this in our weekly staff training sessions. It will definitely improve the service that we deliver.”
Martin added: ““Knowing that a leisure or sports provider understands their needs, helps increase confidence and makes visually impaired people more likely to choose that place to do exercise.
“We have forged a great relationship with Energise Leisure Centre and are arranging a Sports Taster Day for this spring where blind and partially sighted people can come along and try lots of different sports. Watch this space!”
Lucy summed up: “Our goal is to get more people, more active, more often. Sport should be accessible for everyone.”
About Better Energise Leisure Centre
Run by GLL, Better Energise Leisure Centre, located in Acomb, York, boasts three swimming pools, a 98-station gym, the largest climbing wall in York, studios that see more than 30 fitness classes a week, a sports hall, pitches and courts, as well as a creche and café.
GLL is a not-for-profit charitable social enterprise committed to delivering a better quality of fitness and leisure, libraries and performing arts facilities for everyone.
Established in 1993, GLL started as Greenwich Leisure Limited 25 years ago with one centre in Woolwich. It is now the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering leisure, health and community services. Under the consumer facing brand Better, it operates 258 public sports and leisure facilities, 88 libraries, 10 children’s centres and five adventure playgrounds in partnership with 50 local councils, public agencies and sporting organisations.
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