Denied Access: Deaf Olympic torchbearer James Clarke refused Sign Language help by Fitness First gym in Purley

In 2012, A man named James Clarke, with Usher Syndrome, shared his experience of being refused a sign language interpreter by a gym. Usher Syndrome is a genetic condition that affects both hearing and vision. People with Usher Syndrome are born deaf or hard of hearing and develop vision loss later in life.

James requested a sign language interpreter to help him understand instructions and information provided by gym staff, as he has difficulty understanding spoken language. However, gym staff refused his request, stating that they did not have the budget for an interpreter and that he should “watch and learn” from other gym-goers.

This experience highlights the ongoing discrimination and lack of accessibility faced by individuals with disabilities, particularly those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This story is yet, another unsurprising tale of clear violation Disability Discrimination Act and Equality Act. The government created the Equality and Disability Discrimination Act to ensure people with disabilities would receive the same access as non-disabled people. This law requires businesses to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to individuals with disabilities, including sign language interpreters or the hiring of a Deaf personal trainer when necessary to ensure effective communication.

Furthermore, it is important to note refusing a sign language interpreter for a Deaf individual is not only a violation of their rights, its also causes barriers to accessing fitness and well-being services, which is crucial for the overall well-being of the person.

This incident serves as a reminder that businesses, including gyms, are responsible for ensuring that their services are accessible and inclusive for all individuals, regardless of their abilities. Gym owners need to understand that investing in accessibility measures is required. An example is providing sign language interpreters and not only the right thing to do but also is beneficial for business, it shows that they are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all clients.

As the CEO of Worldwide Deaf Gym said:
” I am deeply saddened by the recent incident of a Deaf man with Usher Syndrome being denied a sign language interpreter by a gym. This denial is a violation of the DDA and a lack of inclusivity alongside the right to communication. We stand with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. We will continue to fight for accessibility in the fitness industry. We urge all gym owners to commit to inclusivity and contact us for support.”

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