The Gatekeepers to Fitness: A Correspondence Study to Examine Disabling Practices Among Fitness Center Personnel

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  • 1 School of Nursing, Psychotherapy & Community Health, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
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Fitness centers may be an ideal setting for physical activity, yet qualitative findings suggest social-level barriers constrain access for people with disabilities. To further test this, I employed an online message correspondence study to investigate the effect of impairment status on the responsiveness of a national sample of fitness centers to requests for services. Email requests were sent to 800 fitness centers, of which 200 were tailored to each of the four investigative conditions (i.e., control, vision loss, spinal cord injury, or being autistic). The odds of receiving a positive response were 40.5% lower for individuals with vision loss (p = .011) and 33.3% lower for individuals with spinal cord injury (p = .055), as compared with individuals without an impairment. Specifically, the odds of receiving a positive response for personal training were 58.8% lower among individuals with vision loss (p = .003) and 41.1% lower for individuals with spinal cord injury (p = .065).

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