Encouraging UK Leisure Operators to Make Their Buildings More Disability Friendly


ASPIRE (Association for Spinal Injury, Research, Rehabilitation & Reintegration) is a registered charity and Fitness Industry Association (FIA) member. In January 1998, the ASPIRE National Training Centre (designed by Sir Norman Foster) was opened at a cost of £5.2m in the grounds of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Middlesex. The centre has been an outstanding success in attracting people with disabilities to participate in physical activities alongside those without disabilities. The Centre now attracts more than 500,000 annual visits of which 30% are by people with disabilities.

Commissioned by: Chief Executive

Terms of Engagement

The ASPIRE leisure operation is an innovative operation and yet, still has a very low UK profile. I was commissioned to identify ways in which the Charity could disseminate the good practice from its operation to the UK leisure industry. Key project aims were:

  • To establish the structure of the UK leisure industry and outline a means of how it may be segmented.
  • To establish which leisure segments will be receptive to ASPIRE’S modus operandi.
  • Establish the core competencies that have allowed ASPIRE to develop a successful integration strategy.
  • Identify political and economic ways in which an integration strategy can be effectively communicated to target leisure segments.

Research Tools Engaged

Primary research: Depth interviews among staff, including Trustees and members of the senior management team. Depth interviews with major leisure employers. Focus groups with existing centre users. Secondary research: Telephone, Internet and consultation with several trade organisations.


  • Eleven key recommendations were made to ASPIRE. One innovative recommendation was the inception of a National Integrated Student Design Award for Architectural Schools, so as to educate the nation’s future generation of architects in designing truly integrated and `inclusive` leisure facilities.