The Seven Project - Adaptive Fitness and Serving those Living with Disabilities
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) believes that “Exercise is for EVERY body.” Exercise is one of the most powerful methods for sustaining and enhancing your health, yet more often than not, few individuals get enough of it. This is particularly the case for individuals with disabilities, whose ability to get sufficient exercise may be restricted by physical or social obstacles. Consequently, many people with disabilities experience the ill effects of a sedentary way of life, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
When you workout from a wheelchair, finding an accessible gym that has equipment and training to accommodate your needs is no small feat to say the least. Unlike schools, restaurants, theaters and office buildings, fitness centers are among the last of public places in the US to become widely accessible to the physically disabled.
These barriers were not created because of discrimination, but more because the gyms were unaware of these issues. For years, the preconceived notion seemed to be that people in wheelchairs or the visually impaired didn’t want to work out, so they didn’t train instructors or provide special equipment.
But even when fitness centers do have basic accommodations, those with disabilities are often shut out because getting through the door is just the start. The exercise equipment needs to be accessible also. Simple things such as the seats on machines being too small can not only drastically increase the risk of a person with disabilities to fall, but they are extremely difficult to transfer onto.
Thankfully, for residents of Pensacola and the Florida Panhandle, Tara Blackwell entered the scene. Blackwell, a local Pensacola woman and former standout softball player at Troy University, suffered a cervical spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed in 2005. The Pine Forest graduate has since finished her degree, established a career, and has volunteered tirelessly, all after her accident.
A fateful visit in 2014 to a gym in Orlando that is specially adapted for people with spinal cord injuries left Tara with a vision and a goal of opening one up similar to it right here in Pensacola. She spun into action and over the last five years has been attaining wheelchair accessible gym equipment, assembling a board of directors and learning how to operate a business.
The result? The Seven Project, a non-profit organization that encourages adaptive fitness and wellness for individuals with disabilities. The objective is based on seven core values that Blackwell herself has lived by to support excellent health and well-being. These seven principles are commitment, determination, faith, fortitude, vitality and wellness. Any significance to the number seven you ask? Fittingly, yes. The number seven was Tara’s softball number.
We were fortunate enough to have Tara attend the Open House our Pensacola location back in February and are thrilled to have her level of commitment to people with disabilities so closeby. The Seven Project opened their doors just last month and are located in the new shopping mall on West Nine Mile Road in Cantonment. They have so much more to offer than just exercise and nutrition, please stop in there and see for yourself! For more information, please visit them online at www.the7proj.com, www.facebook.com/the7project and www.instagram.com/the7project