InstructAbility programme wins Prime Minister’s Big Society Award

29 August 2013

One year on from the opening of the London Paralympic Games, InstructAbility, a programme that provides free fitness industry training for disabled people, has been recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron with a Big Society Award.

The programme is the brainchild of YMCAfit, the leading fitness industry training provider, and Aspire, a leading national charity supporting people with spinal cord injuries.

InstructAbility offers participants the chance to gain a Level 2 gym instructor qualification and support to find employment within the fitness industry. Over 40 per cent of graduates have gone on to secure jobs as fitness professionals. Once qualified, instructors undertake a voluntary placement in the industry where they work to encourage more disabled people to get active, making them feel welcome in gyms and sports clubs.

Successful graduates of the programme include individuals with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, limb loss and other conditions affecting skeletal and neuromuscular function.

Since the first pilot course in September 2010:

  • 54 disabled people have qualified as gym instructors, with a further 10 currently in training
  • 29 instructors have so far completed industry placements
  • 14 instructors have been offered employment
  • Six courses have been launched this year with a further thirty courses scheduled across England following an £854,000 grant from Sport England.

Speaking in praise of the programme, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

This time last year we were celebrating the start of the greatest Paralympic Games ever. Today I’m delighted to be recognising the work of a programme which is doing so much to secure the games’ lasting legacy. InstructAbility is encouraging more talented people with a disability to work in the fitness industry and creating the role models that will inspire others to get active.

Denise Page, Head of YMCAfit said: We are delighted by this award as it recognises the fact that disabled fitness instructors have a lot to offer the fitness industry. Employers are beginning to recognise that a disability does not affect professionalism or skill set. Disabled instructors often have a better understanding of how difficult it is to overcome barriers to improve health and fitness and an enhanced level of empathy when working with clients.

Brian Carlin, Chief Executive of Aspire said: We hope this award will raise the profile of the project and encourage more disabled people to take up opportunities to get involved either as gym users or as instructors. We firmly believe that the way to ensure society becomes more inclusive is to ensure there is equality in service delivery as well as service use.

The Big Society Award adds to the recognition already garnered by the programme; in 2012 the programme was awarded the prestigious Inspired by London 2012 mark and gained the Spark of Innovation award by the Fitness Industry Association.

Read more about InstructAbility.