Man secures cheaper gym fees that could benefit disabled Britons

A disabled man has secured a settlement with a gym chain, offering people with disabilities the opportunity to pay reduced membership fees because their health condition prevents them from using all the facilities.

The groundbreaking agreement could benefit hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities who want to keep fit and improve their health.

Andrew Gray, a lawyer, was twice previously a member at Nuffield Health in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. It is one of the biggest chains of its kind in the UK with 114 health and fitness centres. He used to be a marathon runner and played football competitively.

However, from April 2021 his health deteriorated and he now has a disability related to side-effects from treatment with the antibiotic fluoroquinolone, which has left him with chronic fatigue, feeling faint and a range of other symptoms. It means it is no longer possible for him to use gym equipment at Nuffield or to attend exercise classes.

However, he is keen to use the pool when he feels well enough to swim a few lengths and to use the sauna and whirlpool bath to help with muscle aches.

In February 2022 he contacted Nuffield in Harrogate to ask about rejoining as a person with a disability. He asked if there were reasonable adjustments in the membership pricing structure for disabled people who were unable to use all the facilities and was told there were not, although there are discounts based on age for pensioners who can use all the facilities.

Gray said his health condition fluctuated so sometimes he would not be well enough to even use the pool and whirlpool bath. “No sane person would join a gym that they weren’t sure that they could use,” he said.

“What is the point of having legislation like the Equality Act 2010 if nobody really uses it outside of a workplace. It applies to services, as well as employment.”

So Gray’s solicitor, Katherine Swinn at Truth Legal, issued a disability discrimination claim for breach of the 2010 act. Nuffield agreed to settle the claim by establishing an independent committee, including medical experts, to which people with disabilities can apply for reduced membership rates and submit medical evidence of their disability. Committee members will consider their applications on a case-by-case basis.

“All I wanted to do was to enhance my chance to get well again,” said Gray. “Many disabled people would benefit from fairer access to such facilities. People with chronic conditions are put off joining such places because of the unfair pricing.”

Gray said he welcomed Nuffield’s decision to provide people with disabilities with an opportunity to apply for a reduced fee.

“My hope is that other gym chains follow suit. If they did, they would be opening themselves up to many with disabilities who are put off by the unfair pricing policies. And use of gym facilities could help hundreds of thousands of people to improve their health.”

The Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, who is a campaigner for disability rights and a keen gym goer, said the move would be welcomed by many people with disabilities who want to be as fit and healthy as possible.

“There are so many health and wellbeing benefits for disabled people when they can access leisure facilities including gyms,” she said. “But the challenge is the high membership fees with many not getting value for money because they are unable to use all the facilities on offer. Nuffield’s groundbreaking move is welcome. I hope other gym chains will speedily follow their example.”

A spokesperson for Nuffield Health said: “We are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the nation and are always looking at ways to widen access to our services. As part of this we continually consider new ways to support people with different needs.”

Nuffield sources said they believed the new policy was the first of its kind in the UK. A timeframe for its introduction has not yet been agreed.


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