First Ever Person Who Cannot Talk to Qualify as a Fitness Instructor

First Ever Person Who Cannot Talk to Qualify as a Fitness Instructor

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A 27 year old man with cerebral palsy has recently qualified as a Level 2 gym instructor despite not being able to talk.

Laurence James, who is classed as severely disabled and uses a powered wheelchair and a speech aid, gained his qualification with the support of staff from GLL at the Thamesmere Leisure Centre. This was thanks to the InstructAbility programme designed by Aspire, the national spinal cord injury charity and YMCAfit, the leading fitness industry training provider, to enable disabled people to train as gym instructors.

The second phase of the programme involves an industry work placement. Laurence was invited by GLL, the largest provider of public sport and leisure facilities in the UK, to attend their company training course and is currently on a voluntary work placement at Thamesmere Leisure Centre, where he has also achieved his non contact ABA boxing tutors qualification. Laurence is pioneering the use of ipad applications to support his instruction, and his success will open doors for other people with similar disabilities in the future. Laurence says,

“I had always been interested in keeping myself fit and when I was looking for employment opportunities I found out about InstructAbility and from then on I have never looked back.”

“I feel so much more confident. I am proud of what I have achieved and I have proven to myself and to others what I am capable of. I really look forward to going to work at the gym and I enjoy the environment where I can meet new people. The staff at Thamesmere are very supportive and I am very much part of the fitness team. I am so much more determined to do things that I wouldn’t have attempted to do before. The experience has changed my life completely.”

Laurence is now working with GLL to develop a new boxercise club and wants to encourage more disabled people to come in through the doors. He says, “Anybody can come into the gym and work out to their individual ability.”

Hilary Farmiloe from Aspire says, “The InstructAbility programme and working with GLL staff at the Thamesmere Leisure Centre has enabled Laurence to demonstrate his ability rather than be limited by what other people think is achievable. Funding from Sport England means that we are now running courses across the country to enable more unemployed, disabled people to access this free training. InstructAbility graduates are an asset to the industry and can play a key role in inspiring other people to get fit.”

Graeme Davidson, GLL Centre Manager at Thamesmere Leisure Centre says, “The staff were already knowledgeable about disability but Laurence has enhanced understanding about the day to day difficulties and helped us identify a number of areas where we may be able to improve accessibility for disabled clients.

“Since starting with us, Laurence has completed his L2 fitness instructors course and, through the support of one of our fitness instructors, has also achieved his non contact boxing tutors qualification.”

Courses will be running in Romford, Lewisham and Guildford this year. To find out more and apply, go to, call 07917 822977 or email .

Contact Amy Wackett, Communications Manager at Aspire, for further information on 020 8420 8957 or

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