For people with disabilities, Ability360’s fitness center is not just a gym. It’s a gift, a lifeline, a privilege, a necessity.
The 45,000-square-foot fitness center, part of a 62,000-square-foot campus tucked in a business area east of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and along the light rail route, is the first of its kind in the western United States and one of only a few in the nation.
Its equipment is designed with accessibility in mind. For example, the lap pool has a lowered bench for transferring directly from a wheelchair to the water. The fitness room features strength, cardio and free weight equipment like any gym, but they’re designed to accommodate people with disabilities.
The campus is also home to a slew of nonprofits that help people with various disabilities and is typically bustling with activity. Ability360’s fitness center started the year with 2,800 members.
For those with recent injuries, the gym is a place to see and meet others who have coped with and grown stronger from their injuries, a place for encouragement.
For others, it’s the only place they ever get to use accessible equipment. It might be the only reason they leave the house.
For a select few, like those who had been training to play in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, it’s one of the best and most adaptive training facilities in the state.
“This is a place like nowhere else,” said Ability360 vice president and general manager Gus LaZear. “It’s warm, it’s welcoming, people are friendly but also keep you accountable for working out.”
Like many gyms, Ability360 shut down March 17. But when other gyms raced to reopen, Ability360 leaders were more cautious. They serve a more vulnerable population.
The Arizona Republic followed three Ability360 members over several months, documenting as they coped with the rollercoaster of closures and re-openings at the facility they described as being like a second home, a place where their disability didn’t define them.
When Ability360, a Phoenix gym for people with disabilities closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they adapted.
For a Paralympic athlete, Ability360 is essential
Joe Jackson, 30, has been paralyzed from the waist down since being injured during a Hamilton High School football game in 2005.
Breaking his C6 vertebrae in his lower neck left him without the ability to sweat, meaning he can quickly overheat — a common result of spinal cord injuries.
He didn’t used to have to think about it because of the air conditioned rooms at Ability360. He’d been going there three to five days a week for sessions spanning several hours since the gym’s opening in 2011.
Ability360’s focus on accessibility has been a “game-changer” for Jackson, he said.
Jackson in 2007 started playing quad rugby and joined Ability360’s team, which practiced three times per week for three hours at a time at the facility on top of regular games and tournaments.
In 2017, Jackson became a member of the U.S. Paralympic wheelchair rugby team,
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities have ordered all businesses, including restaurants, wedding halls and markets, be closed after 10 p.m. to contain a coronavirus resurgence that began this month.
Also, authorities in the capital, Islamabad, asked police to arrest anyone violating social distancing rules by not wearing masks at public places.
The government Thursday reported some of its highest single-day totals, more than 900 new cases and 16 deaths. The numbers are almost double those reported some days last month.
Pakistan has reported 311,108 confirmed coronavirus infections, including 6,775 deaths.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— US data Thursday expected to show blowout economic growth in summer, but it’s already fading
— Biden is focusing on COVID-19, while Trump would rather talk about just about anything else
— US health officials are issuing insurance coverage rules anticipating COVID-19 vaccines
— On the road in Mississippi, AP finds a story of love in the time of coronavirus
— Australia’s pandemic travel ban brings family heartbreak and questions about how long it can be justified
— India’s cases surpass 8 million as concerns grow over Hindu festivals, winter and social distancing fatigue
— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BEIJING — Officials in the northwestern China region of Xinjiang say they believe they have contained the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak.
Xinjiang reported 23 new confirmed cases Thursday, all involving people who had initially tested positive but displayed no symptoms. It was the second consecutive day in which newly confirmed cases emerged entirely among such people.
Officials say that development appears to show new infections have been curbed in Kashgar prefecture, where the outbreak appeared Saturday. They say all the cases seem to be linked to a garment factory that employs 252 people and has since being sealed off.
More than 4.7 million people in Kashgar have been tested for the virus.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials in Anchorage, Alaska, say the city is on a “dangerous path” as coronavirus cases rise and are urging people to avoid gatherings and follow orders to wear masks in public.
Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson says she has been meeting with business leaders, health officials and others to make decisions that protect
A maternity clinic that delivers about half the babies in Medicine Hat has announced it will no longer accept new patients by the end of January, and will be closed by the end of July unless new funding can be found.
While family physicians typically pay their own overhead, a gap in Medicine Hat’s obstetric services in the mid-2000s led to the creation of the Family Medicine Maternity Clinic.
Funding was provided by the local Primary Care Network (PCN) and Palliser Health, which later merged with the other regional health authorities to form Alberta Health Services.
Dr. Gerry Prince, a family doctor who helped establish the clinic in 2006, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday that the clinic will be closing because the PCN’s funding is due to end in March, and AHS wants the clinic to cover the overhead that includes rent, utilities and all staffing costs.
Prince said this would be impossible, as the costs to run the maternity clinic are roughly double the amount of what it can bill for patient services — and the doctors are already paying overhead for their family practices.
“[The clinic] is closing because AHS is backing out of our partnership, and says that they want to rent us the space that we’ve been able to occupy for the last 17 years with their support,” Prince said.
“And the numbers they’ve given us are just impossible. So, they’ve given us an overhead number, which is about double the amount of billing that we would actually do through the clinic in a year.… Our guys, you know, as much as they love it, just — there’s no way you can do that.”
A ‘flawless service’
The Family Medicine Maternity Clinic was established due to a crisis of accessibility, Prince said. At the time, obstetrics was a declining service in the area.
“There [were] fewer and fewer physicians doing it, and got down to the point where there were only two family docs delivering about half of the babies in town — as well as running the regular community clinic,” Prince said.
“It was becoming quickly unmanageable.”
Prince said that some of the local doctors turned to health authorities and asked for help.
The regional health authority agreed, and later partnered with the Primary Care Network to meet the community need. The clinic was established, attached to the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.
“We went with this idea of a maternity clinic, a dedicated care centre, and they helped support it. And ultimately, we built a specified, designated, custom-design clinic area in our new ambulatory care building,” Prince said.
Eventually, Prince said, that clinic would deliver 500 to 600 babies a year.
“We’ve had a flawless service that’s been providing great care for 17 years.”
Soon, it’s all coming to an end — and why is complicated.
“The docs want to provide the services, we just need to be able to manage it financially. So the real question is, whose job is it [to save