Inclusive Fitness

Emma Kuliczkowski

Every day, millions of people exercise in gyms where advanced equipment helps them reach their fitness goals.

Usually, gym patrons handle fitness equipment with ease. 

But for people with functional or mental limitations, ASTM International’s committee on sports equipment, playing surfaces, and facilities (F08) has recently released standards for inclusive fitness equipment. 
“Inclusive fitness equipment benefits people of all abilities, including users with challenges, such as physical, sensory, and/or cognitive impairments,” says Harv Voris, chairman of the subcommittee on fitness products (F08.30). 

The specification for universal design of fitness equipment for inclusive use by persons with functional limitations and impairments (F3021) and the test method for evaluating the universal design of fitness equipment for inclusive use by persons with functional limitations and impairments (F3022) are interrelated. They must be used in conjunction with one another and may also be applied to any other standard within the committee to ensure the inclusivity of fitness products.

“These ASTM standards will allow equipment to be designed to meet the needs of a wide range of users,” says Dawn Hughes, national adviser for the leisure sector of the English Federation of Disability Sport. “This will provide people with disabilities an avenue to maintain or even build health within the local community, as well as increase social opportunities.” 

Seanna Kringen, research associate for Beneficial Designs Inc., notes that equipment that meets the specifications of the ASTM International standards will be usable by all people, removing the need to buy and reserve equipment specifically for people with disabilities.

Additional standards related to specific pieces of equipment such as treadmills, bicycles, and ellipticals are under development.

Bill Botten, the accessibility specialist and technical/training assistance coordinator at the U.S. Access Board, also has experience working with these standards. Starting his work with ASTM 15 years ago, Botten has been working with accessibility issues for quite some time.

According to the Access Board, guidelines for accessibility are to be applied to public spaces like building ramps, public transportation, and sidewalks. Those guidelines are then brought to standards organizations like ASTM International and used as a framework to apply to specific areas like fitness equipment.

These standards and guidelines can then be applied to federal facilities or public places like playgrounds and gyms, things able-bodied people often take for granted.

“It’s important for everyone, regardless of disability, to work out together and have an opportunity to participate with family and friends,” notes Botten.

This work was supported, in part, by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on RecTech through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

Many of the guidelines are aligned with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hoping for an end of discrimination on the basis of disability.

“Accessibility is often looked at as a building code, but it’s more of a civil rights issue,” says Botten. “Socialization is a huge part of inclusivity and that is what these guidelines and standards aim to do.”

Emma Kuliczkowski, a journalism major at Temple University, was ASTM International’s 2018 communications intern.

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