Eric Harris and Freddie Gregory, Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica)
The design of fitness equipment used in many gyms is a barrier to visually impaired people taking part in exercise. This research, carried out by Rica with the support of Thomas Pocklington Trust and Metro Blind Sport, investigates the development and provision of electronic fitness equipment for visually impaired users. There is a specific focus on the accessibility of screen based consoles, and the needs and experiences of users.
- LED consoles that feature tactile buttons and a fixed display are moderately more accessible than touchscreen consoles.
- There is an urgent need for voice-over technology to ensure fitness equipment is accessible for visually impaired users.
- Participants reported that use of cardio fitness equipment led to an improvement in their everyday fitness and mental health.
- Accessing fitness equipment is challenging for visually impaired users due to the built environment and issues with customer service and communication.
- Barriers to the development of inclusive fitness equipment include: cost, industry culture, a lack of awareness of visually impaired users’ experiences and an over-reliance on IFI standards to ensure products are accessible.