James Clarke, 35, has spent six months fighting to make Fitness First pay for an interpreter, which he claims they are obliged to provide under the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Clarke, from Sanderstead, suffers from Usher syndrome and was born profoundly deaf and partially sighted.He joined the gym in May and initially attempted to complete the two introductory training sessions, which come with the £34 monthly membership, by communicating with pen and paper.
But he struggled due to his poor eyesight and requested a sign-language interpreter.
And since his request wasn’t approved, is now demanding it. With the threat of law to back him up.
Mr Clarke, who in June carried the Olympic torch in Derby, said: “They kept me waiting for six months with emails making unreasonable suggestions, such as to bring a family member or friend.”
Why is that ‘unreasonable’..? Don’t you have any friends, or something?
“I don’t see it being professional and I would lose my independence. They made delaying antics such as saying they will look at the matter and left it for too long.”
But it seems your valued ‘independence’ is reliant on someone else anyway?
After six months, he received an email from Fitness First’s management stating the Purley branch was coming under different ownershipand could not help him.Mr Clarke, who is trying to get fit to complete a personal challenge of running 100 long-distance races, said: “It’s like they kept telling me that they are trying to help and then in the end have said sorry and slammed the door.
“People with disabilities will be treated the same as those without disabilities only if the disabled people have full support. This is a human right.”
No. Actually, it’s not. They offered you a reasonable adjustment of pen and paper. Or bringing a person along to translate.
That’s all they are legally obliged to do, make a reasonable adjustment, not accede to your every desire…
A spokesman for Fitness First said: “In keeping with Equality Act code of practice we can provide a service – where the cost is reasonable– to ensure disabled members are not disadvantaged.”However in James’s situation, the cost of the service in question outweighs the membership fee and so we are unable to provide this additional service.”
The activists, however, are insistent that the company must take the hit:
But deafblind charity Sense backed Mr Clarke, telling him: “Fitness First has a duty to make reasonable adjustmentsfor you to enable you to use all their services.””They are a large organisation, they are offering personal training sessions to everyone, those sessions are not accessible for you unless you have an interpreter and you only want to do a couple of sessions which will then keep you going for quite a while.”
Spending other people’s money on other people. It’s nice work if you can get it, eh?
A comment below asks why his Disability Living Allowance isn’t used to cover this. It’s a fair question. But we all know why he’s gone to the local newspaper. He’s hoping shame will do the job.
But…should they be ashamed?