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People profile
Hilary Farmiloe

InstructAbility National Project Manager


How did InstructAbility start, and how has it developed?
The spinal cord injury charity Aspire, which also operates an inclusive community leisure centre, recognised that disabled people were significantly under-represented in the fitness sector workforce. In response, it set up the InstructAbility programme to create accessible training and employment opportunities.

Our programme is open to a wide range of disabled people, including those with physical and sensory impairments and people who have experienced mental health difficulties.

In 2010, a pilot was run with YMCAfit, which delivered a tailored course, and with a range of leisure operators who provided work placements. A further four courses were funded by the Mayor’s Legacy Fund. In 2013, Sport England awarded Aspire an £850,000 grant to roll out the programme nationally. To date, over 300 disabled people have qualified as fitness professionals.

How did you get involved with InstructAbility?
I’ve always been involved in sport, originally training as a PE teacher and progressing to become development manager for the government’s School Sport Partnership scheme.

I joined Aspire in 2011 to manage and develop the InstructAbility programme from its pilot. I saw this as an opportunity to use my skills for good, working in the charity sector. I was also keen to lead a project that had the potential to effect long-term positive change in the industry.

What are the main aims of the programme?
? To increase the number of disabled people qualifying as gym instructors and working in the fitness industry, by funding and delivering accessible training and providing work placements.

? To increase the number of disabled people participating in fitness by creating a workforce that represents and understands this client group.

? To help the fitness industry become more inclusive by raising awareness of disability among staff, managers, customers and stakeholders.

Do the instructors mostly train other disabled people?
InstructAbility graduates are qualified to work with people of all abilities, but they do hold Level 3 Exercise and Disability qualifications. On the programme, they learn how to use their experience of living with disability to engage other people with impairments.

How do health clubs benefit from employing an InstructAbility instructor?
While you can teach staff to understand disability, nothing compares to having someone on your team who has lived it.

Disabled instructors have often used high-level problem solving skills in their own life, which they can draw on to adapt exercise for others. They can also attract a broader client base.

In addition, over 80 per cent of employers report a positive impact on their existing staff. This can have a ripple effect across the organisation, with some companies revising policies and practices to enhance accessibility.

What impact do instructors have on other disabled people in the community?
It’s all about providing people with real role models. Not everyone aspires to be a Paralympian, but most people would benefit from being a little more active. Being able to go to a club where you feel welcome and supported can make all the difference.

When the instructors share their stories, it can also encourage non-disabled people who lack confidence to get started. Not only that, but we’re creating role models for other disabled people who want to pursue a career in the fitness industry.

How does the programme affect the lives of the instructors?
The majority of InstructAbility instructors have experienced losing their independence and relying on others for a period of time. Our programme turns the tables, empowering them to provide support to others and drive change within the fitness industry.

Disabled people who have been out of work gain a renewed sense of purpose through volunteering and employment. Many instructors also report increases in their own fitness, which helps with managing their conditions. Put simply, it’s not uncommon for graduates to tell us that the programme has changed their lives.

Are there any plans for new developments within the programme?
We’d like to see more employers investing in disabled people’s professional development. We’ll be working with ukactive to co-ordinate LeadAbility, a new bursary scheme funded by Matrix Fitness to enable disabled people to access the ukactive Future Leaders Programme.

With funding from Sport England, we’ll also be piloting a revised delivery model, working with a range of partners including leisure operators, charities, local authorities and DPULO’s (Disabled People User Led Organisations) to co-ordinate the programme at local level.

InstructAbility graduates can also work with non-disabled clients
So far, 300 disabled people have qualified as instructors
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2017 issue 2

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Hilary Farmiloe

People profile

Hilary Farmiloe


InstructAbility National Project Manager

Farmiloe: ‘I saw this as an opportunity to use my skills for good’
InstructAbility graduates can also work with non-disabled clients
So far, 300 disabled people have qualified as instructors

How did InstructAbility start, and how has it developed?
The spinal cord injury charity Aspire, which also operates an inclusive community leisure centre, recognised that disabled people were significantly under-represented in the fitness sector workforce. In response, it set up the InstructAbility programme to create accessible training and employment opportunities.

Our programme is open to a wide range of disabled people, including those with physical and sensory impairments and people who have experienced mental health difficulties.

In 2010, a pilot was run with YMCAfit, which delivered a tailored course, and with a range of leisure operators who provided work placements. A further four courses were funded by the Mayor’s Legacy Fund. In 2013, Sport England awarded Aspire an £850,000 grant to roll out the programme nationally. To date, over 300 disabled people have qualified as fitness professionals.

How did you get involved with InstructAbility?
I’ve always been involved in sport, originally training as a PE teacher and progressing to become development manager for the government’s School Sport Partnership scheme.

I joined Aspire in 2011 to manage and develop the InstructAbility programme from its pilot. I saw this as an opportunity to use my skills for good, working in the charity sector. I was also keen to lead a project that had the potential to effect long-term positive change in the industry.

What are the main aims of the programme?
? To increase the number of disabled people qualifying as gym instructors and working in the fitness industry, by funding and delivering accessible training and providing work placements.

? To increase the number of disabled people participating in fitness by creating a workforce that represents and understands this client group.

? To help the fitness industry become more inclusive by raising awareness of disability among staff, managers, customers and stakeholders.

Do the instructors mostly train other disabled people?
InstructAbility graduates are qualified to work with people of all abilities, but they do hold Level 3 Exercise and Disability qualifications. On the programme, they learn how to use their experience of living with disability to engage other people with impairments.

How do health clubs benefit from employing an InstructAbility instructor?
While you can teach staff to understand disability, nothing compares to having someone on your team who has lived it.

Disabled instructors have often used high-level problem solving skills in their own life, which they can draw on to adapt exercise for others. They can also attract a broader client base.

In addition, over 80 per cent of employers report a positive impact on their existing staff. This can have a ripple effect across the organisation, with some companies revising policies and practices to enhance accessibility.

What impact do instructors have on other disabled people in the community?
It’s all about providing people with real role models. Not everyone aspires to be a Paralympian, but most people would benefit from being a little more active. Being able to go to a club where you feel welcome and supported can make all the difference.

When the instructors share their stories, it can also encourage non-disabled people who lack confidence to get started. Not only that, but we’re creating role models for other disabled people who want to pursue a career in the fitness industry.

How does the programme affect the lives of the instructors?
The majority of InstructAbility instructors have experienced losing their independence and relying on others for a period of time. Our programme turns the tables, empowering them to provide support to others and drive change within the fitness industry.

Disabled people who have been out of work gain a renewed sense of purpose through volunteering and employment. Many instructors also report increases in their own fitness, which helps with managing their conditions. Put simply, it’s not uncommon for graduates to tell us that the programme has changed their lives.

Are there any plans for new developments within the programme?
We’d like to see more employers investing in disabled people’s professional development. We’ll be working with ukactive to co-ordinate LeadAbility, a new bursary scheme funded by Matrix Fitness to enable disabled people to access the ukactive Future Leaders Programme.

With funding from Sport England, we’ll also be piloting a revised delivery model, working with a range of partners including leisure operators, charities, local authorities and DPULO’s (Disabled People User Led Organisations) to co-ordinate the programme at local level.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 2

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