Maties Gym upgrades to become accessible for para-athletes

The Stellenbosch University gym has installed new equipment to make itself more accessible to para-athletes that wish to train there.

South African Paralympian Zanele Situ using one of the machines at the Maties Gym. PHOTO: Facebook

The gym’s sales and marketing manager Conrad Human said about the new area: “When the story started we wanted to be all inclusive, we wanted to be open to not only your students using the normal equipment, but also the differently abled students and for other members as well.”

“We have a lot of the paralympic athletes training here. So in this area we have adapted and are continuously adapting it to fit for all-access and for students. That started with the reception area with the lower desk for people in wheelchairs and so they don’t have to go all the way around as well to access the gym area.”

The equipment at the gym is open to all students but disabled students do get a priority on the special equipment. “As soon as we get someone in a wheelchair, we will get a staff member down and ask them if they need assistance and if they do then we will make the area accessible to them first before we help anybody else,” said Human

Maties Parasport treasurer and Western Province hand cyclist Wentzel Barnard said: “I think I must first of all congratulate the Maties gym in their effort to include everyone in health and fitness. This is special for me as it means I can go with friends to the gym and not feel excluded.

“It means that there are no special arrangements that have to be made and I can gym any time that I would like. There’s also no rush to open the machines to someone else on the circuit which means that your time with equipment is not that limited. I am sure this will make more people with disabilities feel more comfortable in the gym.”

One of the accessible equipment at the gym. The seat slides out to allow a person in a wheelchair to slide in. PHOTO: Dylan Jack

Human added: “Around 14 September we should be getting a machine, that can be used by quadriplegic people, where you can strap your legs in as well, and as you move your arms your legs move together. This will be useful as usually quadriplegic people can’t use their legs, but with this machine they can get blood flowing in their legs through using their arms, which is important for muscle soreness.”

“Another piece of equipment that we have is called active hands. It is a strap that if you have cerebral palsy and can’t open your hands, you can put the strap in your hands, it opens your hands and then you can wrap it around the equipment and use the equipment.”

Human also said that the gym is looking into voice recognition software. “We were thinking about using braille but that doesn’t help because a lot of people don’t have a full visual disability so they struggle with braille. So then voice recognition would be so much better for them and we are looking into putting that onto the equipment.”

An athlete using Active Hands. PHOTO: Facebook

The equipment at the gym could also ease the burden on students’ wallets, according to Human. “For this type of equipment you would usually pay around R700 to R900 per month, but for student training by us it will be R262 and if they are part of Maties Sport it will be R287.” – Dylan Jack

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