Washington, D.C. — Today, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Don Young (AK-At Large) and U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) re-introduced a bill to make fitness facilities across America more accessible for those with disabilities. The Exercise and Fitness for All Act would authorize the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that promotes accessibility, to issue new guidelines specifying the number and types of accessible equipment a fitness facility should have. The legislation would also ensure the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issues regulations to assist with implementation within 18 months of the Access Board issuing their guidelines.
“Thirty-one years after the landmark passage of the ADA, far too many Americans are still excluded from basic access to exercise equipment and fitness classes due to outdated equipment and services, inaccessible to individuals with disabilities,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “It is unacceptable that these barriers still exist that make it more difficult for individuals with disabilities to get the exercise they need to live healthy lives. I am proud to continue this fight to ensure the promise of the ADA is met.”
“Living healthier lives starts with creating healthier habits, which include improving our fitness. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the importance of taking care of our bodies to prevent the development of conditions that can make contracting the virus even more deadly,” said Congressman Don Young. “But for too many Americans living with disabilities, reaching fitness goals remains out of reach due to a widespread lack of accessible and adaptable equipment. Today, I am proud to help introduce the Exercise and Fitness for All Act. This is an important piece of legislation that will help ensure that all people, regardless of ability, are empowered to live healthy and active lives.”
“No one should be the denied the ability to lead a healthy lifestyle because they have a disability, but many exercise gyms and fitness facilities across our country are still not accessible for people with disabilities,” Senator Duckworth said. “I know firsthand how frustrating this problem is, which is one reason why I’m re-introducing this bill that would help reduce the barriers that prevent many Americans from accessing gyms across our country.”
“As we recognize the strides that our Nation has made during the 31 years since the historic signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must also take stock of the barriers to inclusion that still exist for people with disabilities,” said Senator Casey. “The Exercise and Fitness for All Act would issue new guidelines to ensure that fitness facilities are accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities. I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senator Duckworth.”
“More than 30 years after enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many fitness facilities across the country still aren’t fully accessible to people with disabilities. It’s long past time for that to change,” said Senator Feinstein. “I’m happy to join Senator Duckworth in fighting to ensure that the opportunity to exercise is available to everyone.”
Adults living with a disability experience far higher rates of obesity and chronic disease than those without a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also found the inaccessibility of many fitness facilities create barriers for those will a disability to exercise due to the lack of accessible space and equipment.
Under current rules issued by the DOJ, fitness facilities are required to meet basic accessible design standards, such as providing sufficient space next to each type of exercise equipment so a person in a wheelchair can use it. However, many fitness facilities do not currently meet these standards.
The Exercise and Fitness for All Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: Access Living; American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation; American Association of Adapted Sports Programs; American Council of the Blind; National Federation of the Blind; Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Guiding Eyes for the Blind; Lakeshore Foundation; Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Spinal Bifida Association; The Arc; United Spinal; Universal Fitness Innovation &Transformation (UFIT) (UNESCO); Wayfinder Family Service; World Institute on Disability.
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