Ali Jawad is on a mission. The British Para powerlifter isn’t only set to compete at this summer’s rearranged Paralympic Games in Tokyo, but there is another motivation fuelling the 32-year-old Briton, who is also moving mountains within grassroots sport for people living with physical impairments.
Jawad is the brainchild behind the launch of a new mobile app dedicated to disability sport and fitness, which he says will “revolutionise accessibility to gyms and exercise facilities for people of all abilities.”
Initially made available in the UK, the Accessercise app will also be rolled out in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and will become the first of its kind worldwide to plug what Jawad describes as a “gaping hole” in the disability fitness market.
Gym access for all
“We want to change the way disability is perceived by local government and community sport,” explains Jawad. “Ultimately, to provide greater access to community gyms for people living with impairments, but also to shift Para sport away from an afterthought and into the mainstream health and fitness market.
“I have to say that I have been very impressed with the improvements that have been made in recent years to the accessibility and opportunity available to people living with an impairment, especially here in the UK.
“However, this isn’t widely publicised and our hope is to provide a mobile app which puts disability sport on the map, encourages exercise facilities to showcase and enhance their resources available to their community, and makes sport truly inclusive for people of all abilities.”
Launched ahead of Tokyo 2020, the Accessercise app provides a raft of unique features, including a verified directory of accessible gyms situated in the user’s location, an ability to rate the accessibility of local sports and exercise facilities, as well as dedicated podcasts, blogs and user-generated content during and beyond this year’s Olympics and Paralympics.
“I am confident that this year’s Paralympic Games will deliver more exposure for disabled sport,” Jawad continues. “There’s always the concern that, although people will tune in and cheer on GB’s Para athletes over the coming weeks, its place in the public eye has previously been short-lived.
“That’s the reason why we’ve launched the Accessercise app – to help build a legacy for major Para sporting events and provide both up-to-date information on access to local sport across multiple territories and also a digital platform for unique content dedicated to disability sport and exercise, including top tips and user-generated video.”
Only four in ten people living with impairments believes they have sufficient opportunity to be active, according to data gathered by disability sport charity Activity Alliance. Meanwhile, nine in ten people with an impairment feel that they are underserved in the app market.
Jawad says this is an important statistic while also citing that “many people who identify themselves as disabled face barriers when it comes to identifying accessible and welcoming places to exercise.”
“For too long, people with impairments have not been provided relevant or ample information in this space,” Jawad expands. “This is an area where we should be expecting much more of our local government to promote and implement greater accessibility to community clubs, gyms, and fitness groups.
“We aim to revolutionise access to sports and fitness facilities with the launch of Accessercise and we hope will become an inclusive, social hub for people living with an impairment to connect with their local fitness community like never before.”
Ali Jawad is currently in training for this year’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which takes place between 24 August and 5 September.
Words: Steven Impey