InstructAbility breaks the sound barrier with deaf fitness instructors

Disabled people can face many challenges when they think about going to the gym but for deaf people the biggest issue can be the communication barrier.  Now two deaf people, who use British Sign Language, have qualified as gym instructors and are currently based in leisure facilities in the West Midlands. Husband and wife, Ishtiaq Hussain and Kerry Ward Hussain from Stourbridge recently qualified as fitness instructors through the multi-award winning InstructAbility programme. The project, funded by Sport England, was created by Aspire, the spinal injury charity in partnership with YMCAfit, to enable unemployed, disabled people to train as gym instructors. The newly qualified instructors then work to engage more disabled people in fitness sessions.

Ishtiaq and Kerry who are both profoundly deaf, have personal experience of the difficulties in communicating with staff and members whilst in the gym. They were often unable to access the advice and knowledge of how to develop their fitness. Kerry, who has recently started a placement at Fitness First Solihull says, “I would have loved to have a fitness instructor who could communicate and support me in the gym environment. Now I am in a position to assist other deaf people in a way I didn’t get when I joined a gym. I am really looking forward to developing my skills as a fitness professional with Fitness First and making people of all abilities feel welcome.”

Ishtiaq, who recently completed a work placement at Wolverhampton Swimming and Fitness Centre, managed by Places for People, has now been offered a contract to continue his work supporting deaf people in fitness activities. Jason Pitman, General Manager commented, “We’re absolutely delighted the InstructAbility work placement has proven a resounding success and provided the opportunity for us to continue and expand deaf friendly sessions at our facility. I am extremely thankful for Ish's determination and the support provided by BSL signers that has proved instrumental in incorporating deaf friendly sessions into our core activity programme.”

Ishtiaq is now excited about his future and for other deaf people in the local community, he says, “I have learned and achieved so much since becoming part of the InstructAbility project. I understand the frustration and feeling of being isolated that so many of the deaf community experience when visiting a gym. I am thrilled to be able to overcome these barriers and directly support the deaf community into an accessible fitness environment.”

Hilary Farmiloe, National Manager of the InstructAbility programme concluded, “By working in partnership with leisure operators the scheme is enabling disabled people to demonstrate the unique skills they can bring to the industry workforce. The potential for these particular instructors to support deaf clients to access fitness facilities is enormous and we hope that this is the start of a new way forward for deaf people to work out and work in the gym.”