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How Can Fitness Be Made More Accessible For The Hard of Hearing?

Becoming physically fit takes discipline, determination, and organization. Old habits can be tricky to break and finding the time to go to the gym can be inconvenient when juggling a busy lifestyle. Throw hearing loss into the mix and getting fit can become a bit more of a challenge to contemplate.

Hearing Loss & The Fitness Industry

The need to encourage physical fitness by making classes and the gym more accessible has never been so great. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15% of American adults over the age of 18 are reported to have some form of hearing loss. With the fitness and physique world booming, the hard of hearing form a large market of potential gymgoers.

What Can Be Done To Improve Accessibility?

  • More instructors need to be encouraged to sign. It’s such a great way to enhance communication and to make classes more accessible.
  • Encourage those with hearing difficulties to move to the front of the class so they can follow body language and lip-read more easily.
  • Provide more physical demonstrations to reinforce what needs to be done and proper techniques.
  • Increase the lighting to enhance visual awareness within the room.
  • Use music tracks with a strong base so that those who cannot hear the music can feel the beat instead.

How Is The Problem Being Addressed Within The Industry?

There are groups out there trying to make a difference to the way in which the hard of hearing can access fitness sessions. Deaf Planet Soul is just one organization that has taken the fight one step further by proposing specific classes – be it basketball, the gym or boxing for the hearing impaired in Chicago. They continue to actively fundraise in order to make their exciting plans a reality.

There are many individuals equally as motivated to make a difference in their own way. Katie Winder, a 29-year-old deaf fitness instructor from Orem, Utah took up coaching as a way to help bridge the gap between the hearing and the hearing impaired. According to SELF.COM, Katie wants “… to help people accomplish their goals and overcome their personal barriers towards leading a healthy lifestyle and enjoying fitness.” She does this by employing “the communication tactics she uses daily in her life – reading body language, using written notes. And doing plenty of demonstration.” She’s found such methods work well for everyone, regardless of whether they can hear.

Katie is not alone in her quest to make fitness more accessible for the hearing impaired. According to Miranda Larbi for The Metro, India Morse, a fitness blogger and nutritional coach, has made it her mission to increase awareness and instigate change. She’s found getting fit a liberating experience; “I realise how lucky I am. Deaf or not – you have to get up and do it, nobody else is doing it for you.” When asked about accessible fitness studios in London, India recommended F45 Training believing it provides a ‘deaf friendly’ approach to fitness with visual aids to help you complete each stage of the workout.

There is one area of growth where India and many others have discovered a huge advantage - the rapid rise of social media. Visual platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are proving to be an effective way to share experiences and spread the news. India believes “we have a long way to go in changing the way the hearing perceives us, but with social media, we can and are breaking down the barriers!” With such positive role models springing up all over the web, there’s only one thing for it – to get off the couch and into some gym kit!

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