Salford Community Leisure is the first to launch ‘WelcoMe’, an online tool and app to enable people with disabilities and special needs to have positive experiences when visiting gym and sports venues.

The App is being piloted by Sport England across a number of UK leisure operators, with Salford being the first to go live with the service by integrating the technology into its front-of-house systems.

WelcoMe helps disabled people plan ahead and be in control of their visits by contacting venues before their arrival, alerting sports and leisure teams of any special requirements or assistance needed.

The app has been developed to make a difference in the lives of disabled people by taking away everyday challenges, increasing people’s confidence in visiting sports and leisure facilities and reducing the anxiety often brought on by visiting these venues.

Once the user has confirmed the booking and plans, an alert is then sent to the leisure centre or sports facility with information about the visitor’s disabilities, conditions and requirements.

The mother of a Salford gym user, Sami Habib, aged 20 from Eccles, who has Autism and Erbs Palsy and is supported by Empower You in Salford, comments about what she and her son think of the WelcoMe app.

“It’s important to realise that not everyone has visible disabilities.”

Ferdy Habib, aged 47, says: “WelcoMe 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.”

Councillor David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety at Salford City Council, 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.”

Ben Andrews, project manager of Empower You by Unlimited Potential, an organisation that supports disabled people to access mainstream leisure provision across Salford, says: “Disabled people face significant barriers to accessing mainstream leisure facilities and venues. This app will help ease the anxiety many people feel in declaring their access and other needs in person. It will also help support a more aware leisure workforce. It’s great to see the app adopted in Salford and is a fantastic asset for SCL and local people.”

WelcoMe is now live at Irlam & Cadishead Leisure Centre and will be going live soon at four additional sports and leisure venues in Salford including Eccles Leisure Centre, Salford Watersports Centre, Swinton & Pendlebury Leisure Centre and Worsley Leisure Centre. In the meantime, any user of SCL’s gyms with a disability, condition or additional healthcare related needs can download the app free here

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