Fitness Accessibility

Just today, the MIT Tech Review published an article on current research at the University of Nevada aimed at making fitness more accessible to the blind community. Professor Eelke Folmer has created a prototype drone system that replaces the need for a sighted guide for blind runners.

Reading the article, I was excited most by the following excerpt:

“Most of the accessibility research [for the blind] focuses more on things like screen readers and making the Web more accessible,” Folmer says. “The community of blind people still has major problems pertaining to health, socialization, and quality of life. It would be more helpful for this demographic if we research how technology can improve these issues.”

As an athlete and fitness freak myself, I take for granted my ability to exercise. This article made me realize that and also how little I hear of assistive technology for this purpose.

There are many incredible athletes with impressive accomplishments despite their disabilities. Marla Runyan, for example, came to speak to my track team last year and inspired us all with her crazy feats and stories.

However, what about your average joe person who happens to have a disability which makes taking care of their health and fitness difficult? What can we do to lower that barrier? The rate of obesity is much higher (50% as opposed to 33%) in the disabled population, and I think one of the most important things we can do to improve that as a society is to make exercise more readily available to all abilities. Exercise is empowering. To be able to run around a track as a blind person, without needing a sighted guide, is an exciting advancement.


One Response to “Fitness Accessibility”

  1. Jeff Dusek says:

    I have mixed feelings on this. I run as a sighted guide for blind athletes, and it is an awesome way to build a sense of community and encourage blind athletes to get out, exercise, and race. I run with Achilles International, and Team With a Vision is also an excellent group in Boston. The disadvantage of course is needing to coordinate schedules for training runs, etc. My concern with a drone is how conspicuous it would be for an athlete just trying to get their workout in. As drone sizes continue to decrease maybe this won’t be a problem. I’ve also been involved with some trial programs to train guide dogs to run with their owners, and I think that has some definite promise as well.

    Check out for information about guiding.

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