Coalition strives to connect disabled with fitness via industry companies

Inclusive Fitness Coalition's mission is simple -- to increase inclusion and access to physical activity for people with disabilities -- but the ramifications are huge when considering 50 million Americans have a disability. The coalition is working to connect the fitness industry with this relatively untapped market.
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Inclusive Fitness Coalition's mission is simple -- to increase inclusion and access to physical activity for people with disabilities -- but the ramifications are huge when considering 50 million Americans have some type of a disability with numbers continuing to rise.

The coalition is working to connect the fitness industry with this relatively untapped market -- and any fitness retailer or manufacturer can join and take advantage of its resources to learn more and get involved.

Co-founded by the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (www.ncpad.org) and American College of Sports Medicine, the coalition's goals are to address policy, environmental and societal issues associated with the lack of inclusion and access to physical activity among people with disabilities.

"Members from the two organizations decided there was a need to address the health issues of people with disabilities, especially with a sedentary lifestyle, and created the coalition to get organizations moving on the issue," said Jessica Madrigal, visiting information specialist for Inclusive Fitness Coalition (www.incfit.org), who also noted the group is targeted at youth, adults and seniors with physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities.

Expansion in the industry

The coalition is looking to expand coordination of organizations to address the issues that influence participation of people with disabilities in physical activity, recreation and fitness. Among its objectives is to increase inclusion, receptiveness and accessibility.

It's eliciting change through work groups, research and being an information resource. It's created an inclusive playground registry and established a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer certification with the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org). Its Policy Work Group has been working with the American Society of Testing Materials to develop fitness standards for equipment for people with disabilities. At the recent Club Industry show in October, the group had a small booth next to an area displaying accessible equipment from manufacturer members.

"When the equipment standards go into effect in 2010 that's going to be huge for people who want to market to this population," Madrigal said.

In addition, the coalition is working to establish itself as the information conduit for programs, news and events -- and it's looking for more members to accomplish that.

"We're trying to become the information resource and talk to people and amplify the changes that are happening," she said. "We found there is a disparity and no central place to go to get this information."

The coalition's current 125-member roster is a diverse group, including national groups dedicated to disability like the American Association on Health Disability, fitness and recreation centers, and fitness equipment manufacturers like Life Fitness and Technogym.

Joining free and easy

Membership is free and organizations must fill out a form to join. The coalition sets up a membership page on its site, which explains your company's mission and goals, what you offer and participate in, and how you can be contacted. The website gets about 10,000 hits a month, according to Madrigal.

Members can serve on its various work groups, and the coalition also encourages them to promote on its website events, news, products and what they're doing to address accessibility.

"We have a lot of resource pages that people use. People can see the membership page for a certain organization or company and contact them directly," she said. "So anything that's happening within the industry in this area we want to keep up to date on."

For membership information, contact Madrigal at jmadri1@uic.edu or 312-996-5486.

--Wendy Geister

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