Get yourself active blog

InstructAbility helped me learn to be me again

Thursday 29 March 2018

This week’s personal experience blog comes from Wendy Hall, who when she couldn’t find a gym she liked decided to train as a gym instructor herself

In 2008 I had a blackout and fell down stairs. I broke my neck at C5/6/7 cervical level, which essentially means everything below the break is affected and I had instant paralysis from the neck down. Some of my friends and family were always hopeful I would get some sort of recovery as I was physically fit and always did exercise, used weights and gone to the gym, but I know how lucky I am to have achieved any recovery, feeling or movement due to the level and severity of my injury.

Soon after the accident I was lying in bed, not being able to move, but still trying to work out how I was ever getting back to the gym.

I thought it would be a very difficult road ahead for me – and I was right.  Some days were harder than others with several gyms and personal medical struggles trying to hold me back. The attitude towards me was unexpected, especially from lots of staff and members who knew  me; it was like I had two heads and was contagious! I was offered no support, no alternatives or adapted induction to be able to re-learn equipment. I even struggled to enter the building, even with my partner’s support.

That’s when I decided it shouldn’t be the case for others….

I did some voluntary work with Aspire, a spinal cord charity, which led me down the path of becoming a gym instructor again after my accident. Aspire has a great InstructAbility programme which provides fitness industry training for disabled people. I used to teach aerobics classes before my accident, and so the training for me was a brilliant opportunity and helped me to feel like the ‘old me’ again.

Although my spinal injury can make things challenging at times, being active helps. Practical exercises support me with everyday functions like getting about and some flexibility, which can be challenging with my nerve damage.

While in the gym as a volunteer, I decided I wanted to start an Inclusive Circuits class when I became qualified.  I wanted to create and give more opportunities to bring more people together. It was (and still is) so apparent there are very few inclusive classes in gyms; the issues I had faced just seemed to be all too common.  Anyone is welcome to join in with us, and anything can happen. My class has been doing so well and is popular with regular participants!! There are many abilities, and we all come together to exercise and some of the transformations have been amazing for individuals.

Any top tips or recommendations?

I’d say most of all, keep looking and trying to do something you like and enjoy. Whatever you can manage today, may get you through tomorrow. Family and friends will see you through, and will help where they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Charities for example, can offer much more than just financial support, they can help with all sorts of things. Without Aspire, who knows where I would (or wouldn’t) be today. I have a lot to thank a stubborn practical attitude, and Aspire for.

I think I had all but given up on trying to progress, so the opportunity to be supported in teaching in exercise again I couldn’t miss out on. I just wanted something to remind me of some part of ‘me’ before my accident, I could hardly remember with struggling with so many things after coming back home from hospital. I never realised how soul destroying coming home would be, but I couldn’t give up trying to find another me.

In taking on the InstructAbility gym course it set me challenges I wasn’t sure I would manage. From taking on a full course including written and practical work, and trying to manage a job as well, it was so difficult. It was exhausting and painful, physically and mentally, but I wanted to do well and kept believing I could.

Doing the gym course, with other disabled people helped me learn to be me again and have some confidence to be me again. Staff and gym users (at Portway Lifestyle Centre, Sandwell Leisure Trust) knew nothing about me, other than I was a qualified gym instructor on a voluntary placement.

Challenging myself has been the best thing, as well as the hardest. If it was easy it wouldn’t be so worthwhile.

It’s been life changing , almost literally for me.

It’s given me confidence to speak to people again, look people in the eye, learn to be in the gym exercising again and learn to enjoy being with others and be in my own skin. I had hated myself for a long time, felt worthless and pointless. I’m finding my new me, even though it’s taken about 7 years though (I’m now 10 years post-accident).

I’m stronger mentally, growing in confidence, happy to speak with others , and importantly I’ve seen I can encourage others, especially with mixed ability. To see others grow in self confidence and personality is so inspiring to me.  I’m doing things I never would have before, like outdoor rowing, and I’m taking those who want to try new things with me too.

I’m proud to have my disability now and to be able to inspire, encourage and see others grow. My journey could have been so different and, more importantly, without those who I love and live with who have always encouraged me and see how difficult it is, it was and still will be. I’m lucky and very grateful to many, but I spread lots of thank you’s wherever I can. Usually cake & a cuppa, that’s never changed.

Even though I still used my wheelchair, but it never stopped me pushing forwards.

In other news Want to help make a change in the information disabled people receive about physical activity?

Macclesfield Lifestyle Originals FC

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Macclesfield Lifestyle Originals Football Club recently took part in the FA’s Peoples Cup competition at Aquinas College Stockport.

This was their very first official completion and they played really well against some very seasoned teams drawing two games and losing four. Everyone really enjoyed the experience and are really looking forward to taking part in many more future competitions.

The team shown here is from 2nd left to right is: Back row: Paul Jackson, Jonathan Perry, Craig Mcleod & Michelle Plumb (Ladies team Goalkeeper); Front row: Mark Nolan, Tom Swindon & Mitchel Reece.

Two other people who played in the completion but were unable to take part in the photo are: Marcus Bowness ( Mens team Goalkeeper) & Jordan Hayter. The two coaches are: Lorryn Dixon & Ju Van Da Wal.

Besides this competition, the team along with the rest of the Macclesfield Lifestyle Group and a number of other teams from Adult Services throughout Cheshire East, take part in a Monthly football event held at Sandbach UTD FC. This event is now in its fourth season and is going from strength to strength and looks set to continue for many more.
The team would like to give a big thank you to their sponsors Pro Seal, for their encouragement, support and for providing the teams kits.

In other news: Step Change Studios invite you to attend their first professional showcase

Step Change Studios invite you to attend their first professional showcase

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Fusion is the UK’s first inclusive Latin and Ballroom dance-inspired showcase, presented by Step Change Studios. Fusion brings together talented professional artists from a wide range of dance backgrounds to push the boundaries of ballroom with beautiful, powerful, performances that redefine the genre.

Fusion is an experiment and creative exploration between disabled and non-disabled artists from backgrounds that include Charleston, Swing, Contemporary and Street to develop original pieces inspired by Latin and Ballroom dance.

Dance, in all forms draws influence from different styles, settings, and stories. Dancers’ physical form influences the artistic and performance process. Fusion brings these together through playful, creative collaborations that aim to question our ideas about Latin and Ballroom dance and dancers.

When: Wednesday 9 May at 8pm
Where: Lilian Baylis Studio, Rosebery AvenueLondonEC1R
Find out more information here: Fusion
Extras: The performance will be followed by a post-show discussion
Free to ticket holders. BSL interpreted.

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Supported by the Dance Enterprise Ideas Fund – an East London Dance initiative.

In other news: Take part in our research and receive a £15 Amazon voucher

SportsAble appoints new COO and directors to support growth ambitions

Tuesday 13 March 2018

SportsAble, a sports club in Berkshire which specialises in delivering multiple sports to people with a disability and their families, has appointed a Chief Operations Officer and bolstered its Trustee and Enterprise Boards.

This process has taken place over the last 12 months and prepares the organisation for an expansion of services.

Miranda Wilsnagh becomes new COO of SportsAble

Established in 1975, SportsAble is a registered charity that has been playing a vital role in the community for more than 40 years.  It is governed and managed by a Board of Trustees, many of whom are also founding members of the charity. In 2015, an Enterprise Board was established. This Board reports directly in to the Board of Trustees and is responsible for generating and managing income which is then fed back into the charity and the day to day operation of the facility.

Kerl Haslam, CEO at SportsAble, says:

“We are an ambitious organisation. Over the next 18 months we have big plans to enhance our provision, creating even more accessible and varied opportunities for disabled people in the Thames Valley to enjoy an active lifestyle. We already deliver 20 physical activity sessions per week, across 15 sports and serve a loyal membership of 365 members, but, we want to do more.

“We are in talks with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead regarding the development of new premises on our existing site in Braywick Park, Maidenhead. Our facilities have served us well but they are tired and in need of modernisation.  We are also exploring an opportunity to launch a franchise model to create a national network of SportsAble clubs, extending the service we provide to other communities across the country and enabling inter-club competition. In addition, we are also keen to extend our community outreach programme through connections with local hospitals and schools. Not everyone is able to visit our premises so we want to take more of our services out into the community.

“All of these projects are the driving force behind the recent COO and Board appointments. Yes, the plans are ambitious but with the right skills, knowledge and experience I am confident we can achieve them.”

Joining the organisation as COO is Miranda Wilsnagh. With 21 years’ experience running her own IT recruitment business and more recently working in the charity sector as a councillor and advisor, Miranda’s main role will be on unifying and motivating the staff team as well as overseeing general operations. The post is full time and will enable the CEO, Kerl Haslam, to focus on strategic planning, income generation and partner relations.

Commenting about her appointment, Miranda says:

“I have spent my entire professional life helping individuals fulfil their potential. I intend to continue to do this at SportsAble, both with the staff team and the members. The charity has huge potential and I am looking forward to making a contribution which will push the charity towards a successful and sustainable future.”

Joining the Enterprise Board are: Jo Croft, Head of Finance; Tim Bowley, Team Building and Junior Sports; Lynne Kuschel, MBE, Volunteer Manager; William Wilsnagh, Strategy and Business Development.

Joining the Trustee Board are: Aly Lewis, Lawyer; Sharon Bridge, Swimming Coach and Fundraising; Steve Palmer, Fundraising and Social Media; Jonathon Madden, Social Media; Harp Bamrah, Corporate Sponsorship.

All new members underwent a rigorous interview and induction process before their applications were accepted. Haslam adds:

“The level of talent we have attracted has surpassed my expectations. I am really looking forward to working with such an accomplished group of individuals.”

Speaking about his reasons for joining the Enterprise Board, Tim Bowley, says:

“SportsAble delivers an invaluable service to the community and it is important that we find new ways to protect the sustainability of the charity through the exploitation of existing income streams and the development of new opportunities. Working alongside the other Enterprise Board members and liaising closely with the Board of Trustees, I look forward to introducing new practices, ideas and innovations that will keep the charity providing a much-needed service to the community for many years to come.”

In other news: British Blind Sport and UK Deaf Sport want to hear from you

Double delight as ParalympicsGB take super-G silver and bronze

Monday 12 March 2018

There was double delight for ParalympicsGB’s visually impaired Para alpine skiers on day two, with two medals at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games.

Millie Knight and Brett Wild secured their second silver medal of the Games with a fantastic run in the super G, while Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe showed their fearless attitude when they bounced back from the disappointment of not completing the downhill event on day one to win bronze.

A jubilant Knight said:

“If I’d thought I would have two medals in two days at the Paralympics I would have said you are crazy. This time four years ago I was sat in the crowd watching Kelly (Gallagher) win gold and now I’ve made the podium myself.”

Their success on the slopes at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre means ParalympicsGB now has a fabulous three medals after just two days of competition.

In other news Want to help make a change in the information disabled people receive about physical activity?

Accessibility Mark Comes to Isle of Wight

Monday 12 March 2018


A riding centre on the Isle of Wight has become the latest centre to form an association with RDA through its Accessibility Mark scheme.

Island Riding Centre gained its accreditation following training and assessment and is now hoping to be able to expand its services to more disabled riders.

Riding for the Disabled Association, in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation’s participation programme, launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with commercial riding centres with the aim of getting more disabled people to participate in riding.

Set in stunning countryside, Island Riding Centre is the premier riding venue on the Isle of Wight, and benefits from some of the best beach and countryside trails in the UK. 

The Association of British Riding Schools centre prides itself on providing riding opportunities for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest riders and people with limited physical abilities. Their aim is to not only provide fun but also help development and maybe find a potential future riding star.

Accessibility for disabled riders at the centre is un-rivalled in the area, with the newly built facility being design based on recommendation from RDA. The site is fully accessible for wheelchair users and has an access ramp to help with mounting.

As the centre is based in a popular holiday location, they have developed a range of self-catering holiday accommodation with four of the units suitable for disabled people, having being built to the guidelines of the National Accessible Scheme for Disabled Access.

Centre manager Tian Hughes said: “We contacted the RDA to enquire about our options for teaching disabled riders and they recommended the Accessibility Mark scheme, as the most suitable avenue for the centre.

“The scheme allows us to tap into the experience of such a well-respected organisation and is attractive to our clients as it demonstrates the gold standard, giving confidence that they are in safe and capable hands.

“When the staff attended the training day, they were all incredibly impressed with the vast amount of knowledge displayed by the ASO (Accessibility Support Officer), which focused on good practice on things such as mounting.

“We were already teaching some disabled riders with minor physical and learning disabilities but hope to expand this further using our fantastic facilities and with the help and support of RDA.”

Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial.

For further information contact Island Riding Centre on 01983 214000 or visit

There are currently 45 Accessibility Mark approved centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit

For more information contact Jacqueline Spouge or Tim Smith at TSM on 01724 784600.

In other news Want to help make a change in the information disabled people receive about physical activity?

Come along to celebrate the launch of Doncaster’s new Accessibility Checker!

Friday 9 March

You are cordially invited to the launch of the online Accessibility Checker to Doncaster

Please join DisabledGo and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council to celebrate the launch of the online Accessibility Checker to Doncaster.

It includes comprehensive access information for 1,000 venues in the area including libraries, leisure centres, restaurants, shopping centres and lots more!

Most important of all, everywhere has been visited and assessed by trained surveyors, so you can get all the facts, knowing someone has actually been there to collect the details.

Come along to find out more and find out how you can get involved.

Thursday 15th March 2018

10.30am –  11.30am

Cast Waterdale Doncaster DN1 3BU

Please book your place via contact details below.

You can contact us by phone, email, text and by post. If you have any

You can contact us by phone, email, text and by post. If you have any specific requirements please let us know so we can make sure the event is as accessible as possible for you. Friends and colleagues are welcome to attend too.

Unit 7, Arlington Court, Arlington Business Park, Whittle Way, Stevenage, SG1 2FS

mobile: 07908 129952   Tel: 01438 842710


British Blind Sport and UK Deaf Sport want to hear from you

Tuesday 6 March 2018

UK Deaf Sport and British Blind Sport want to better understand people with hearing and/or visual impairments and their use of leisure centres

The two organisations are working in partnership to better understand people with hearing and/or visual impairments and their use of leisure centres to help develop accessibility recommendations for leisure operators nationwide.

Click here to take part in the short survey:

Please promote this survey or share this information with any contacts you feel would be interested to help us achieve their objectives.

A word version of this survey is available on request or to complete the form over the phone, please contact British Blind Sport on 01926 424 247 or email The deadline to complete this survey is 1st April 2018.

In other news: GOGA star mentor wins prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award

GOGA star mentor wins prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Disability Rights UK is thrilled to announce that one of our star mentors on the Get Out Get Active (GOGA) Peer Support Project has won a prestigious Torch Trophy Trust award for Outstanding Contribution to Inclusivity.

The GOGA Peer Support Project, run by Disability Rights UK (in partnership with English Federation of Disability Sport- EFDS) trains active disabled people to become mentors to work one to one with another disabled person who wants to be active but might be experiencing barriers such as low confidence.

Morris Nelson, 49, from Lambeth, South London has been a mentor to Stephen Wells. Morris experienced a breakdown a few years ago following the loss of his job. He felt he had lost his identity, was under pressure to support his family and really struggled to re-build his confidence.  He has since made a remarkable recovery and used volunteering on GOGA as a way to build his self-esteem and fulfil his love of supporting others, volunteering in more than 5 different roles over the past 3 years including setting up a football club, Furzedown United.

Following ‘Making A Great Mentor’ training, he and Stephen started working together in June 2017 by taking up yoga- an activity new to both of them. Within 3 months they had both become more physically active, tried other new activities like walking and aerobics and both have reported increases in their confidence and mental wellbeing.

Stephen has a history of depression and mental health problems and before working with Morris he struggled to even get out of the house. “I felt low, I lacked motivation to do things. I knew I wanted to get active but it seemed so hard to take the first step. Joining GOGA and working with Morris has changed my life. He was there alongside me when I took my first go at yoga and slowly he helped me to set small goals, motivating me at each step. I now go to exercise classes six times a week and help Morris with his football club at the weekends! Morris has inspired me to become a mentor and help other disabled people to be active- something I never thought I would do”.

Morris says,

“I’m thrilled to have won this award, there are no words! Stephen’s journey has been amazing. He went from being this shy, unconfident person to someone who’s not afraid to get out there and try new things. He has started volunteering and has even come forward now to become a mentor himself. He motivates and teaches me new things, sometimes I forget who the mentor is! GOGA Peer Support has upskilled me, made me more employable and helped give me direction, this programme should be available to everyone”.

Morris has now progressed to the role of Mentor Co-Ordinator helping Disability Rights UK to run the Peer Support Programme in Lambeth with local organisation Disability Advice Service Lambeth. Both he and Stephen share their story and experiences of mentoring to train and inspire new mentors to sign up and help with outreach, raising awareness of the project to professionals interested in peer support.

Kate Pieroudis, Disability Rights UK’s GOGA Peer Support Lead says,

“This award rewards Morris’ commitment to supporting others, his excellent achievement as a mentor and demonstrates the ways that peer support- sharing experiences and skills and physical activity can change someone’s life. The GOGA Programme is a great example of partnership working, bringing together expertise from EFDS and 10 other national partners of which Disability Rights UK is one”.

The Torch Trophy Trust was founded in 1962 commemorating the two 1948 Olympic torches made for the last leg of the Olympic relay, one presented to a Commander Collins, who presented it to the Torch Trophy Trust. He believed the Olympic ideal, symbolised by the torch, could also be an inspiration for men and women working quietly in their own small corners of the world of sport.

For press enquiries or more information, please contact:

Kate Pieroudis, Peer Support Lead, Disability Rights UK on 07715 960710 or

More information:




In other news: Get Yourself Active and the University of Birmingham want to find out what you think about how information about physical activity and sport is presented to disabled people

Raising the Bar for Disabled Riders with Accessibility Mark

Tuesday 6 March 2018

A Berkshire riding stables has become the latest equestrian facility to gain accreditation with a national scheme to provide more riding opportunities for disabled people.

Cloud Stables based in Reading has successfully fulfilled the necessary criteria to become an Accessibility Mark Centre. Established since 1972, Cloud Stables provides lessons for riders of all abilities, using their fantastic facilities that boast both an indoor and outdoor arena.

Riding for the Disabled Association, in partnership with the British Equestrian Federation, launched the revolutionary Accessibility Mark scheme to work with commercial riding centres with the aim of getting more disabled people to participate in riding.

Having run an RDA group in the past, the centre wanted to change direction to offer a wider range of services to their clients.

The introduction of Accessibility Mark has allowed the centres’ BHS qualified instructors to challenge riders with less severe disabilities to realise their full potential.

Kate Matthews, Yard Manager at Cloud Stables said:

“Accessibility Mark fitted perfectly with our vision for the future of our centre and it was easy to incorporate within the mainstream riding school.

“The biggest selling point of the scheme for us was the training and support from the RDA, and our staff are excited and full of enthusiasm following the session with the ASO (Accessibility Support Officer).

“Being able to tap into the knowledge and experience of the RDA has also given confidence to our instructors to bring more variety to lessons, which will undoubtedly benefit our riders.”

Accessibility Mark status is awarded to a riding centre that has been approved by the RDA following training and assessment. The close link with the RDA means that it can offer continuous support to the establishment to ensure it provides a first-class experience that aims to be hugely beneficial.

For further information or to book a lesson please contact Cloud Stables on 0118 976 1522 or visit

There are currently 45 Accessibility Mark Approved Centres across the country.

To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit

In other news: Help shape national guidelines aimed at disabled people and their supporters to help increase take up of physical activity and receive a £30 Amazon voucher