In 2021, the RFC and ABLE Employee Inclusion Group teamed up to find out more about fitness, wellness, and recreation experiences of people with disabilities at SAS. The goal was to understand employees' individual and collective experiences with the RFC, and opportunities to enhance accessibility and inclusivity of programs offered.
“I know how difficult it is to maintain a positive and healthy workout routine that is sustainable and can be modified for changing energy and pain levels. I am a work-in-progress, and I am still learning that keeping up with the rest of the class is not always the best option for me. Through my work with ABLE, I am hoping to help eliminate some of the barriers that prevent equitable access so that everyone can experience success. I want to be a part of the efforts to build a community of people who can help and empower each other.”
- Laura Feldberg, Sr. Technical Writer, R&D
What We Discovered
Through a series of focus groups with a diverse number of employees of different ages, genders, abilities, and fitness levels, we learned what we are doing well and where there were opportunities for improvement.
What's Going Well?
- Employee Experience: Many employees have positive experiences at the RFC. The RFC staff are supportive and are sensitive to individual needs. They are also able to accommodate requests from those with physical disabilities.
- Did you know that if you need an accommodation for equipment at the pool, you can call ahead and request that props be placed by the poolside? There is also a lift that helps someone enter the pool if they are unable to utilize the steps.
- Physical Environment: The RFC has an individual accessible restroom that can accommodate a wheelchair and provides an easily accessible shower.
- RFC Programming: Many programs already exist that are inclusive for people of all fitness levels and abilities. A couple of examples include the following:
Opportunities for Improvement
- Employee Experience:
- Hearing class instructors can be challenging for those with a hearing impairment.
- Going to the RFC the first few times can be intimidating and overwhelming for some people with disabilities.
- Physical Environment: Navigation in the locker room can be difficult, both mentally and physically.
- RFC Programming: More introductory-level classes are desired to nurture people with limited mobility, stamina, or experience with fitness classes.
Actions the RFC is Taking to Create an Inclusive Experience for Participants with Disabilities
- Employee Experience:
- Finding ways to increase instructor volume and minimize external auditory sounds during group classes to ensure all class participants can hear instructions.
- Exploring a buddy system to provide support in classes and programs.
- Providing RFC tours and consults for individuals with disabilities, including those with service animals, to be sure participants have the information and resources they need to an inclusive RFC experience.
- Physical Environment:
- Undergoing a change to enhance locker room accessibility.
- Looking at ways to improve ease into classrooms/studios, including offering outdoor options with space that allow for easier parking and access, with the bonus of enjoying nature.
- Expanding RFC equipment including a low platform to facilitate certain exercises.
- RFC Programming:
- Providing one-on-one support for individuals with disabilities during workouts (including outdoor runs).
- Determining opportunities for more classes open to all levels of fitness and abilities.
The RFC and ABLE's partnership will continue to analyze employee feedback to set goals and create action plans to make lasting change.
“I’ve been passionate about fitness and wellness, the outdoors and all things movement since middle school. I was motivated to move by social and internal pressures as I was an overweight child. Being extremely uncomfortable in PE and sports, I felt like an outsider but I’ve come a long way in some respects. It is still a challenge to honor my body’s responses to exercise and do just enough – not too much and not too little. Regular exercise helps me manage symptoms of bi-polar disorder and gives me a sense of confidence in my body and connection with others. By no means have I fully accepted this ever-changing “masterpiece” - I deal with chronic pain, and I’m learning to focus on what I can do rather than what I used to do. I am motivated to support and create opportunities for people of all abilities, body shapes, and sizes to experience joy in movement and connect with others. Working with ABLE has allowed me to determine what the RFC is doing well and things we can improve upon.”
- Rebecca E. Allen, Recreation & Fitness Program Coordinator, Employee Services
Thank you to our wonderful employees who shared their stories and provided feedback to help foster SAS' inclusive work environment.