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‘WelcoMe’ app aims to improve experience for people with disabilities attending sports venues in Salford, UK

Disabled man training in the gym

People with disabilities in Salford, UK, can now experience stress-free visits to sports and leisure facilities, thanks to a new app called ‘WelcoMe’.

As reported by Neal Keeling of Manchester Evening News, the pilot project is being facilitated by Sport England across a number of UK venues, with Salford being the first to go live out of 7,200 locations across the country.

With this app, people with disabilities can plan ahead by advising venues, prior to their arrival, of any accommodations that they will require.

Salford Community Leisure (SCL) manages eight gyms, six pools and a water sports centre, in addition to many other venues.  Visitors with disabilities will be able create a profile with details of their specific needs and abilities prior to their visit.

The app was developed by Neatebox, reported Keeling of Manchester Evening News.

Users must notify venues no less than two hours before their visit in order for staff to make appropriate preparations, such as briefing team members and getting any equipment ready.

Once the user has verified the booking and their requirements, an alert is then sent to the facility with the information about the visitor’s disabilities and requested accommodations.

Ferdy Habib, 47, from Eccles, whose daughter Sami, 20, has Autism and Erbs Palsy, said, “It is a brilliant idea; knowing that the staff know in advance of a disabled person’s condition will reduce a lot of anxiety and makes things a lot easier not only for the disabled person but also for the people working at the leisure centres.

“It is respectful and reduces the stress that people can feel particularly if there is a queue at the leisure centre or sports venue.

“Sami just wants to get in the gym and get on with his training session rather than having to wait. To be welcomed in advance would also be a huge benefit as it would put Sami at ease and it would be good for him to know that someone knows who he is in advance. It’s important to realise that not everyone has visible disabilities. We look forward to this being used across SCL’s facilities,” he added.

Councillor David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety at Salford City Council, told Manchester Evening News that ‘WelcoMe’ will have a profound impact on ensuring positive experiences for people with disabilities using sports facilities.

He said, “It’s a quick and easy way to let staff know what support people need to get the most from their visit – and builds on a lot of work SCL has already done in training its staff to support people with disabilities or additional needs.”

Head of Sport at Salford Community Leisure, Garry Bateman, said, “We are proud to be at the forefront of the Sport England pilot for the introduction of this innovative app into the leisure sector.

“The new app is the perfect addition to our facilities and seeks to bridge the gap in the customer journey of someone with a disability in that both real and perceived barriers are addressed prior to the actual visit taking place. It builds the confidence of both the customer and our staff in ensuring that the visit is the very best experience it can be,” Bateman concluded.

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