I started working on Empower when I was 17-years-old. I gained my Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification and started supporting family members with visual impairments at the local gym. I often thought that, there’s got to be more people in this position with a disability who could benefit from increasing their fitness but might need some support to do so.
So I started volunteering around Salford, delivering health lifestyle sessions for people with a range of disabilities; wheelchair users, people with learning disabilities, deaf people and people with hearing impairments and got a real feel, and buzz, for adapting sessions to meets people’s needs. I also assessed what was available for disabled people to keep active and found there to be a real lack of opportunities.
I tried to put a report together at about 19-years-old to state a case for a disability specific gym instructor. I’d never written a report. It had no rationale, no evidence base, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it so unsurprisingly it didn’t go anywhere. But I knew what I wanted to do and why, so I didn’t give up on it.
Knowing I’d need more knowledge and experience to make this work I approached Salford University and explained my plans and was granted access onto an Exercise and Health Sciences degree. I used my time at Salford University to research my field, with a particular emphasis on disability, exercise and the heightened prevalence of long term conditions for this demographic.
By the time I left University I was able to articulate a clear case as to the importance of disabled people leading healthy, active lifestyles. Luckily enough, NHS Salford CCG had just released an Innovation fund to pilot new ideas to improve the health of Salford residents with one of there target groups disabled people. Being right up my street, I compiled all of my personal and professional experience along with my academic learning into a bid and submitted it. Since 2015 NHS Salford CCG has funded the Empower project, with the aim to support disabled people to lead more active lifestyles.