Meet the deaf nutritional coach who’s fighting for greater accessibility in fitness

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India Morse, AKA YouLeanMeUp, is a fitness blogger and nutritional coach, with an Instagram to make even the hardiest couch potato try a session at Gym Class .
So far, so standard.
Who isn’t a wellness influencer these days with a penchant for avo toast and #coffeebeforecardio selfies?
But India is a blogger with a difference.
She was born deaf, and is using her online fame to try and make the fitness industry more accessible to people with similar disabilities. A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Aug 2, 2017 at 10:43pm PDT
India first got into nutrition and fitness as a way of getting over the breakup.
‘Like many people who go through a break-up of a relationship and feel heartbroken, I realised that I needed to find a focus and found nutrition and fitness to be very therapeutic,’ she tells Metro.
‘My passion kept growing and I was getting leaner by the day, and people around me started to notice and comment on just how lean I was becoming…and I wanted to help and inspire others to get lean too!’ A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Jul 6, 2017 at 10:21pm PDT
But as you might imagine, it’s a difficult industry to operate in any way – let alone when you’ve got a disability.
‘Not being able to hear the tempo and follow the rhythm of the music can be really difficult,’ India says.

‘It’s hard to be in sync with the workout.
‘There are a lot of barriers with the accessibility, as a lot of fitness studios are quite dark which makes it very difficult to able to lip read the trainer. So, I have to copy whoever is next to me, although it could be high risk, as the person may be doing it all wrong which could affect you.’ A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Jun 26, 2017 at 1:47am PDT
She says that while many trainers use microphones, that doesn’t help people who aren’t able to hear at all, and that she’d like to see more trying to use other ways of communicating.

‘There is a need for a more hands on approach. Some basic sign language would be really helpful.

Trainers are constantly moving around, which is another reason why reading their lips just doesn’t work and it’s extremely exhausting.
‘As a result, a lot of deaf people just can’t be bothered to attend. A lot of fitness classes cost around £20 which is we feel is unfair when we are not getting the full benefits and accessibility.’ A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Feb 25, 2017 at 2:46am PST
When she first set up her account, India says that her confidence was ‘rock bottom’ because she didn’t know how to start or make a conversation with hearing people as she’s used British Sign Language all her life.
‘I didn’t want to use my voice because it is not clear. But (forging a career in fitness) was the best decision that I’ve made as it’s given me so much more confidence and I’ve met so many people and have created some beautiful friendships, which I would never have imagined.
‘It was extremely challenging, I’ve cried because I couldn’t keep up with group conversations, but I didn’t want to be the person who says hello and leaves straight after the class because I couldn’t talk and express myself. A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Dec 11, 2016 at 1:04am PST
‘I pushed myself to the limit.

I’m glad to be who I am and I’m glad to have met the people who I’ve become friends with as they always make sure that I’m OK in the class.
‘Some have even interpreted what the trainer has said for me, which has meant an awful lot to me. I realise how lucky I am. Deaf or not – you have to get up and do it, nobody else is doing it for you.

So what’s the closest to a fully accessible studio that she’s come across in London?
‘I would say F45 Training is the best in regards accessibility that I’ve experienced, as it is definitely very deaf friendly. A post shared by F45 Tottenham Court Road (@f45_tottenhamcourtroad) on May 27, 2017 at 3:40am PDT
‘The TV’s mounted on the front wall of the studio provide an organised, station-by-station diagram for each daily workout.

With the guidance and motivation of the F45 trainers, this system is a visual tool for members to progress from exercise station-to-station throughout the workout, and the trainers go around the class to ensure that you are performing in the correct method.
‘This is maybe the only place that you don’t feel left out, or lost as you can leave there happy and satisfied.

As well as blogging about food and exercise, India is also an accessibility reviewer. Her aim is to fight for ‘better accessibility for everyone, whatever their disability, so everyone can enjoy the fitness industry without the limitations or barriers.’ A post shared by Youleanmeup (@youleanmeup) on Aug 7, 2017 at 11:11am PDT
‘And, of course, I want more deaf-friendly fitness classes. It’s 2017 – I think it’s time to do something about it!
‘A lot of people often forget about deaf people because we don’t look disabled, so the fitness industry really need to be more thoughtful and visual where possible.

And platforms like Instagram are playing their part in an accessibility revolution – giving people a space to talk and share that they didn’t have before. .