Triple Paralympic medal winner Nigel Murray opened the Sport Centre’s new disabled access fitness suite on Friday 22 January.
The Sports Centre hosted a special event with guests Murray and John Silke, a regular Sports Centre user and tetraplegic.
The event was in celebration of the Sports Centre’s newly received Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) accreditation.
This was awarded after the university invested more than £30,000 in sports staff training and equipment that can be used by both disabled and non-disabled people. The new equipment includes a handbike, a cable crossover machine and a treadmill.
These improvements are just the latest in the Sports Centre’s aim to support disabled students at the university and in the local community.
The Sports Centre had already invested in a lift, braille signs, changing rooms, showers and electric doors that automatically open to enable easy access for wheelchair users.
Director of Physical Education and Sport at the university, Terry Monnington said, “It is fantastic that we have Nigel Murray and one of our regular Sports Centre users John Silke here to help us celebrate our accreditation”. Murray is a triple Paralympic medal winner in the sport of Boccia.
Murray, who was born and bred in Leamington Spa, won a gold medal in the BC2 class in the 2000 Summer Paralypics in Sydney.
He also won a silver medal in the same even and a gold medal in the team even in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing.
At the opening, John Silke expressed that he feels that the new equipment will benefit him greatly in improving his strength.
The Sports Centre has given him free membership. He uses the facilities on average three times a week.
Monnington has said that Silke is an example of how the Sports Centre is helping the local community as it becomes “more and more accessible for people with disabilities”.
The IFI is a programme aiming to make the fitness industry more inclusive, catering for the needs of disabled and non-disabled people.
The IFI hopes to increase physical activity participation as wells as launching 1000 inclusive fitness facilities across the UK by the start of the 2010 Olympics in London.
It was created following research into why disabled people were not visiting fitness centres by the Gary Jelen Sports Foundation in 1998.
The programme is concerned with four key areas, including accessible facilities, inclusive fitness equipment, staff training and inclusive marketing strategies.
Monnington said, “Getting this accreditation is vitally important as we are potentially going to be an Olympic and Paralympic training camp”. The Sports Centre has been identified as suitable for five Olympic sports and seven Paralympic sports.
Monnington is involved in a chair group which is concerned with developing opportunities for training camps in the Warwickshire sub-region, including Coventry and Solihull. The group looks at ways to increase the profile of the London Olympics 2012 in this sub-region and get community involved.
The investment in the university’s sport and fitness facilities is just one way awareness has been raised and the community made more included.
New users have already expressed interest in the new disabled access machines in the fitness centre.
One woman with a visual disability had never been to the Sports Centre before, but after attending the opening, she expressed interest in now using the facilities.