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Accessible Personal Fitness: Tips, Tech and Resources

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Exploring Fitness at the Heiskell Library

For many of us, toning up, shedding a few pounds, or becoming more active is one of a slew of New Year's resolutions. Knowing that the patrons we serve have this desire for health and wellness, we at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library decided to create a workshop specifically aimed at physical fitness with accessibility in mind.

Workshop attendees heard from Tymbher Lomax, a long-time volunteer tech coach; Christopher Noel, Accessibility Coordinator for NYC Parks and Stephen Hess, Program Developer of NYC Parks, Media Education; and members of local organizations such as Achilles International, InTandem Cycling Inc., Adaptive Climbing Group-New York, Row New York, and the New York Rockets, a blind baseball team coached by library patron Thomas Derosa.

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Team inTandem at the 2017 TD Five Boro Bike Tour

At the workshop, we first acknowledged our remote participants, introducing ourselves and talking about the role that fitness plays in our lives. Responses included "I like to eat so I have to do it," "I hate getting up early to exercise or passing up fries, but I love the energy boost after a hard workout," and "how empowered I feel knowing that I chose to fuel my body, not just to fill it.”

Personally, I believe that true fitness goes beyond the physical: Fitness means an overall soundness of our whole self, involving emotional and mental wellness too. Tymbher’s presentation spoke to this point, which I've summarized below, along with information that each of our guests brought to the workshop. 
 

Tymbher Lomax, volunteer tech coach

Tymbher discussed and demonstrated a number of free and low-cost mobile apps and online tools that she personally finds effective and accessible using VoiceOver on her iPhone. Her choices not only exercise the body, but also flex the mind and spirit. Here are the recommendations she shared:

Eyes-Free Fitness: an app that offers non-visual workouts with clear, detailed verbal descriptions
Aaptiv: an app for audio-based workouts for all levels
Pocket Yoga: guided yoga practice app with clear descriptions

Also, Tymbher highly recommends the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene for anyone interested in yoga, and finds her Yoga for Complete Beginners as a great way to start.
 

NYC Parks

Since 1910, NYC Parks has provided an affordable and extensive network of recreational services throughout New York City. Their 35 recreation centers provide a range of programs and offer facilities such as indoor pools, weight rooms, basketball courts, dance studios, art studios, game rooms, and libraries. Additionally, Shape up NYC holds free fitness classes every week at dozens of recreation centers across the five boroughs.

We were glad to have Christopher Noel (Christopher.Noel@parks.nyc.gov) and Stephen Hess (stephen.hess@parks.nyc.gov) talk about how NYC Parks strives to promote and encourage healthier lifestyles for people of all abilities.

"NYC Parks goes over and beyond ADA compliance regarding our parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers, and the programming within, so that every person regardless of their ability can participate,” said Noel. NYC Parks offers people with disabilities full access to all 35 facilities for a discounted rate of $25 per year.
 

InTandem Cycling Inc.

Founded in September 2013, InTandem’s mission is to provide tandem biking programs and cycling opportunities to people with disabilities and the people who want to ride with them. InTandem trains and matches captains (the front rider) with stokers (the rear rider), and provides a meeting point and tandem bikes for their weekly scheduled rides in Central Park.

Long-time member and stoker Hashim Kirkland had this to say about the impact InTandem has had on his life: "Riding with inTandem has been a dream come true. For a long time, I always wanted to ride a bike but never imagined doing bike tours and gaining such wonderful friends or, should I say, family."

Register to ride at the InTandem website, and check out their busy calendar of event rides.
 

Achilles International

The mission of Achilles International is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events, in order to promote personal achievement. Specialized programs include Achilles Kids, which provides training, race opportunities, and an in-school program for children with disabilities; the Achilles Freedom Team, which serves wounded military personnel and veterans; the Achilles Para-triathlon Team, which expands the running program into biking and swimming; Achilles Chapter workouts; and Hope & Possibility, Achilles’s signature race, which takes place in several cities worldwide.

At the workshop, seasoned Achilles athlete Lamar Brown told us about his two decades of experience with the New York City Chapter, and how the program has given him confidence, friends, travel opportunities, and the freedom to achieve goals most people only dream of. Lamar encourages us all to take on the challenge of doing that which you have been told you can’t.
 

NY Rockets

The NY Rockets are the American representatives of the young, but driven, Italian Blind Baseball League. Player-coach Tom Derosa informed us that practice begins in the Spring, Mondays at 5:00 PM. If you are blind and want to play baseball, feel free to reach out to Tom for more details.
 

Jonathan Epstein, an ally in the disability sports community and InTandem captain, told us about a number of other organizations—detailed below—making strides toward getting people with disabilities to be active, both recreationally and competitively.

Adaptive Climbing Group 

Adaptive Climbing Group creates accessible and affordable options for people with disabilities in climbing, including competition, recreation, and therapy.

Row New York

Row New York's adaptive and para-rowing mission is to empower people with disabilities to achieve their personal competitive and health goals through the rigorous discipline of rowing, by building a community of trust, motivation, and high expectations.

Ski for Light – Skiing. Sharing. Learning.

The mission of Ski for Light is to enhance the quality of life and independence of visually or mobility-impaired adults through a program of cross-country skiing. Each year, they conduct a week-long cross-country skiing event at a U.S. location that varies from year to year.
 

We covered a lot during the workshop, and are sure there are even more opportunities to get fit. Join the conversation in the comments below by sharing what you know, and consider attending any of our informative and entertaining workshops in future. Stay active!

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