July 28, 2021

During Week of ADA Anniversary, Duckworth, Casey, Feinstein, DeSaulnier, Young Re-Introduce Bill to Make Fitness Facilities More Accessible for People with Disabilities


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) re-introduced a bill today to make fitness facilities across America more accessible for those with disabilities. The Exercise and Fitness for All Act of 2021 would authorize the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that promotes accessibility, to issue new guidelines specifying the number and types of accessible equipment a fitness facility should have. The legislation would also ensure the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issues regulations to assist with implementation within 18 months of the Access Board issuing their guidelines. Duckworth has completed four marathons since her injury, fulfilling a promise she made to herself at Walter Reed. Senator Duckworth was joined by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in re-introducing the legislation. Companion legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11) and Don Young (R-AK-AL)

“No one should be the denied the ability to lead a healthy lifestyle because they have a disability, but many exercise gyms and fitness facilities across our country are still not accessible for people with disabilities,” Duckworth said. “I know firsthand how frustrating this problem is, which is one reason why I’m re-introducing this bill that would help reduce the barriers that prevent many Americans from accessing gyms across our country.”

“As we recognize the strides that our Nation has made during the 31 years since the historic signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must also take stock of the barriers to inclusion that still exist for people with disabilities,” said Casey. “The Exercise and Fitness for All Act would issue new guidelines to ensure that fitness facilities are accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities. I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senator Duckworth.”

“This legislation will help ensure that fitness and exercise facilities are truly open to all – accessible to people with disabilities and everyone else. By improving and expanding accommodations for people with disabilities," said Blumenthal. "The Exercise and Fitness for All Act would remove unfair obstacles they face at far too many gyms. I’m proud to join Senator Duckworth in her continued advocacy for equal opportunity and access.”     

“More than 30 years after enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many fitness facilities across the country still aren’t fully accessible to people with disabilities. It’s long past time for that to change,” said Feinstein. “I’m happy to join Senator Duckworth in fighting to ensure that the opportunity to exercise is available to everyone.”

“Thirty-one years after the landmark passage of the ADA, far too many Americans are still excluded from basic access to exercise equipment and fitness classes due to outdated equipment and services, inaccessible to individuals with disabilities,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “It is unacceptable that these barriers still exist that make it more difficult for individuals with disabilities to get the exercise they need to live healthy lives. I am proud to continue this fight to ensure the promise of the ADA is met.”

Adults living with a disability experience far higher rates of obesity and chronic disease than those without a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also found the inaccessibility of many fitness facilities create barriers for those will a disability to exercise due to the lack of accessible space and equipment.

Under current rules issued by the DOJ, fitness facilities are required to meet basic accessible design standards, such as providing sufficient space next to each type of exercise equipment so a person in a wheelchair can use it. However, many fitness facilities do not currently meet these standards.

Yesterday, Duckworth re-introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act of 2021, which would expand the Disabled Access Credit, making it easier for small businesses to qualify and increasing the amount of the tax credit that small businesses can use to provide equal access for people with disabilities. In May, Duckworth and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bipartisan bill to provide much-needed assistance for gyms, fitness facilities and studios that shuttered operations to protect public health during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic but as a consequence, have struggled to stay in business. Duckworth also secured a commitment from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabel Guzman to work together on that legislation.

The Exercise and Fitness for All Act of 2021 has been endorsed by the following organizations: Access Living; American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation; American Association of Adapted Sports Programs; American Council of the Blind; National Federation of the Blind; Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Guiding Eyes for the Blind; Lakeshore Foundation; Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Spinal Bifida Association; The Arc; United Spinal; Universal Fitness Innovation &Transformation (UFIT) (UNESCO); Wayfinder Family Service; World Institute on Disability.