Daniel Arbor, Down, Invictus uses an active coach while driving in St. John’s. The machine is believed to be the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, giving wheelchair users new options for access to fitness. (Alex Kennedy / CBC)

When she went to the gym with her friends in a wheelchair, Daniel Arbor said that the lack of available options could defeat the purpose of going with the team.

“There may be times when my friends go and do something, and I have to go and do something else,” Arbor said in an interview.

“This makes me feel unacceptable to where I am going. But it’s very different here in Versailles.”

Studio Verso is a new gym in St. Jones. The All-Avenue gym, centered around the wheel and paddle chambers, has a special device that makes wheelchair access more accessible than ever.

Owners Emily Hicky and Maria Snow Invictus believe he is the first active coach in Atlantic Canada.

The machine is a treadmill designed for wheelchair users, in which a person uses a mechanism to return the wheelchair to the machine and lock it in place. Then they start pushing their tires – thanks to two rear cylinders – and they can move at their own pace.

Invictus Active Trainer is a treadmill designed for wheelchair users, and can be used to make spinning parts accessible to everyone. (Alex Kennedy / CBC)

Hiki, who opened the gym two weeks ago, has been looking at accessible fitness options since its inception and said access to gym settings is needed.

“The reason we decided to open this facility is that physical activity is good for your overall health and we feel it is very important to extend it to as many people as possible.

“It is a learning experience in terms of finding the right fit for the individual,” Snow added.

The couple said that they welcomed the machine during their first week. Arbor said he was one of the first to try Invictus and that there were fitness options in the area.

“I mean,” she said. “Before, there were not many accessible places to go and train with my friends. Most of my friends are disabled. So to go with them and have the opportunity to exercise. That means a lot.”

Accessibility is more than a machine.

But when it comes to finding the machine, they say Hicky and Snow do not make the gym easily accessible.

That topic comes with many plans. Working with community members to promote inclusion, from creating roads around the gymnasium to encircling the Invitation Machine and increasing accessibility.

Emily Hicky, Left and Maria Snow are co-owners of Studio Verso in St. Jones. They say working to build a comfortable place was a key part of the gym. (Alex Kennedy / CBC)

“Accessibility needs to be considered in many aspects, not just the push button on the door,” Hicky said.

“People have to take into account the bathrooms, they have to take into account the entrances. They have to take into account the presence of stairs. If there is a reception table, they have to consider whether there is space for seating.

“Accessibility really extends to all business sectors, and we would love to see more businesses implement that.”

Asked what can be done for wheelchairs and other gymnasiums, she said it is important to remember that not everyone in the gym is on the same level of play or comfort level. It is also important to consider the convenience of space and equipment.

Daniel Arbor says that the availability of fitness options in St. John’s is important to her. (Alex Kennedy / CBC)

Snow learned a lot in the process, and Invictus said the machine was just beginning.

“This is just the beginning for us. There is more we can do than this little piece,” she told me.

“There are options. You just need to look for them,” Hiki added.

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