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John has become one of Surrey’s first disabled fitness instructors through Paralympic legacy programme

Press Release   •   Jun 25, 2013 10:48 BST

John Parfitt from Cobham has a spinal cord injury which he sustained in a car accident and has left him a full time wheelchair user. However, John is proving that this is no barrier to a successful career in the fitness industry and now there is an opportunity for other unemployed, disabled people to follow in his path.

After completing a level 2 fitness instructor course, he is now carrying out a work placement at Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Complex, Walton-on-Thames. John was given free fitness instructor training through the InstructAbility programme and disabled people in Surrey are invited to apply for the next free course in Guildford this summer.

The innovative scheme has been designed by Aspire, the national spinal cord injury charity and YMCAfit, the leading fitness industry training provider, to provide support and training for unemployed disabled people to qualify as gym instructors.

John has previously represented Great Britain in wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. He says,

“When I was first injured, I went to use a local gym and I felt that the instructors either weren’t skilled or didn’t have time to go through a fitness programme with me – they just told me to use a hand bike. Through InstructAbility, I’ve learned about a variety of different things on offer for disabled gym users. InstructAbility has enabled me to gain more knowledge of different disabilities, whilst also taking this learning and applying it to my own fitness training methods. I hope to go on to gain a Level 3 personal training qualification and to eventually become a tennis coach. InstructAbility has given me an important first step towards that goal.”

Hilary Farmiloe from Aspire says,

"The success of the 2012 Paralympic Games has raised aspirations of disabled people as well as changing other people's attitudes. InstructAbility, a 2012 Inspiremark initiative, has enabled John to demonstrate his ability rather than being 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.”

Disabled people in Guildford and surrounding areas are now being invited to apply for a free place on the InstructAbility course at Guildford Spectrum. The seven week course, funded by Sport England, commences on 5th August and is free to anyone who is disabled, unemployed and over 16 years old.
InstructAbility offers free Level 2 fitness instructor training specifically for disabled people, leading to an internationally recognised qualification. After completing the course, students then carry out a voluntary work placement in a working gym or fitness centre to gain practical experience. Once qualified, participants are given support to find placements and employment in the fitness industry.
Full details, including a video about the project, are at: Apply for the course online, call 07917 822977 or email

Notes to Editors

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

33 disabled people have qualified as Level 2 fitness instructors through the InstructAbility programme in 2011-2012. Of those who have completed the work placement 44% have moved into paid employment and 22% have gone on to take higher qualifications.

The wider aim of the InstructAbility project is to contribute positively to social change by challenging the negative perceptions of disabled people in society and encourage greater participation of disabled people in sport and leisure activity.

Aspire is a national charity that provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by spinal cord injuries. Every eight hours in the UK someone is paralysed by a spinal cord injury. For more information about our core services including Aspire Housing, Assistive Technology, Independent Living Advisors and Aspire Grants, visit

YMCAfit is one the UK’s leading training providers in the field of exercise, fitness and activity for health; driven by the belief that everyone in society is entitled to the health benefits of regular physical activity.  It is part of Central YMCA whose mission is to change health attitudes and behaviour through advocacy, education and direct delivery.

InstructAbility has been awarded the London 2012 Inspiremark: The Inspire programme is run by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The Inspire programme officially recognises and rewards exceptional, innovative projects inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Projects that are awarded the Inspire mark are allowed to claim an official link to the Games.  

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