My name is Hannah. I’m 28 and eat through a feeding tube and breathe through a tracheostomy tube. I’ve had both these tubes since I was just days old. I was born with a medical condition that affects my lymphatic system, and as a result, I have thousands of cysts in my head and neck, some of which are in my airway and esophagus. I’ve had more surgeries than we can count and have heard the word can’t more times than anyone should. For every time I’ve been told I can’t do something, I tend to do the opposite. I grew up around sports and played some growing up, but was often held back, or given free passes in gym class, to not have to try as hard. When I was out on my own in college, I signed up for every intermural sport I could (despite being TERRIBLE at all of them) and legitimately played Ultimate Frisbee every single day. I found my body could do much more than I ever dreamed it could, including multiple half marathons.
In 2018 I was on a quest for 365 days of movement. I did some 30-day programs and loved them! I loved working out at home and getting incredible workouts in without having to go to a gym. Several friends have health product-related businesses and often run Facebook group challenges. In August 2018, these friends asked me if I would be the “fitness guide” for a 5-day challenge they were running that included healthy eating and working out for five days. I said sure and started creating a 5-day plan that could be done at home with no equipment for the participants in their group. The feedback was awesome, and I even started sharing it on my social media, and so many friends were into it! Within one month, I had over 50 people across the country sign up for my plan! This was super unexpected, but so fun! I decided to try to expand it to a whole 30-day program. This was much more of an undertaking than I imagined at first, but I was down for the challenge.
Like I said, too many of these programs already exist. As I went through the process of creating the program, I knew I needed it to be different. I slowly had my eyes opened to the fact that the disability community and those with medical conditions are severely left out of the fitness world. Videos on youtube, Facebook, or Instagram are often not captioned for those with hearing impairments. Photos and videos are often not labeled with any sort of ALT text for those with visual impairments either. Exercises may be listed out, but if you have never heard of a curtsey lunge or speed skater before and you are unable to see the picture or video that doesn’t give you much to go off of. I knew if I was going to create a fitness program, it had to be as close to 100% accessible as possible. This, too, was much more work than I anticipated, but I knew it would be worth it. I spent hours writing VERY detailed instructions for every exercise in the program. I wrote all these at a fourth-grade reading level in hopes that our friends with intellectual disabilities would be able to understand and be able to implement these exercises as well. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to figure out how to describe running in place, but I did it! I also took videos of all the exercises. The videos don’t have any talking or sound, so they didn’t need to be captioned. They do have the names of each exercise on them to follow along with. Next, my patient husband took pictures of me doing each exercise, multiple pictures for each exercise, to follow along with, and they each have ALT text. I’m not totally done with the process yet, but it will be a PDF that can be downloaded, and it should be 100% screen reader accessible for friends with visual impairments who use screen readers. The program is out now for free to sign up for. Once you sign up, you will receive a daily email with the workout of the day, the video, and detailed exercise descriptions. These come to your regular email address, so ideally, they are screen reader accessible. I also have included motivational talks, goal setting tips, and funny videos of my cat, and I had dance parties to motivate participants along the way.
I’ll say it again, nothing about my exercise combinations is special, but the fact that I have gone to such lengths to make them fully accessible, is. I hope and pray this program serves everyone that utilizes it well. My dream for 2019 is to publish it as an e-book on Amazon and to send it to group homes, day programs, and camps for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. So often, people with disabilities or medical conditions are physically able to move their bodies. Still, they are either written off as not being able to, or can’t access the materials. Hopefully this is a step towards a more accessible future in the fitness community.