A guide to O’Connor Rec Center for people with disabilities

| June 27, 2022
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Going to the gym is good for your physical, mental, and social well-being. It can be a place to build strength, relieve stress, and find friends and community. 

Historically, though, gyms have been extremely inaccessible places and as a result, people with disabilities often feel unwelcome in them.  

The university at large and the staff of SHWB and the O’Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being in particular aim to support all students and provide them equal access to every Hopkins resource. To that end, we’ve assembled a handful of FAQs that often arise when folks with disabilities use a gym. If you have a question that this list does not address, email us at either [email protected] or [email protected].

We are dedicated to continuous learning and want to hear from you how we can make your experience at the gym a positive one. We hope to see you at the gym sometime soon! 

Q: I’ve never been to O’Connor before. Can someone show me around?
A: If you contact the membership office, they can schedule a tour for you. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like to see, let them know when you make the appointment. 

Q: Where can I park when I come to O’Connor?
A: There are three handicapped spots on the traffic circle near our main entrance. There’s also metered street parking on University Parkway.   

Q: If I have a problem or a question, who should I ask?
A: You can always email [email protected]. Additionally, you can peruse the staff list to see if there’s someone who might be best equipped to answer your exact question. We would love to get your feedback, so we can best meet your needs. 

Q: If I work with an aide, can they come into the gym with me? Do they have to be a member?
A: Yes, they can come in. No, they don’t have to be a member. (One note: unaffiliated personal trainers are not allowed in university gyms for liability reasons.)

Q: Where are the wheelchair-accessible entrances and exits at O’Connor?
A: The primary accessible entrance is the main entrance on the traffic circle in front of our building. There is also an ADA-compliant emergency egress on the terrace level. If for any reason the main entrance door is not working or inaccessible to you, please call the welcome desk at 410-516-4434. 

Q: Where are the wheelchair-accessible bathrooms at O’Connor?
A: All of the bathrooms in O’Connor have at least one accessible stall. 

Q: Where is the wheel-chair accessible elevator?
A: If you enter the gym via the main entrance, go past the membership desk and turn right. You’ll pass a short flight of stairs (leading to the SHWB suite). The elevator is just past the stairs, on your right. 

Q: Where are the wheelchair-accessible locker rooms and showers at O’Connor?
A: All of the locker rooms are wheelchair accessible and have wheelchair-accessible showers, with one exception. At the time of this writing, the all-gender changing room by the pool is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair but does not have an automatic door and its shower is not wheelchair accessible.

Q: Is the pool accessible to wheelchair users?
A: The pool deck is wheelchair-accessible, but we do not currently have an operational chair lift. The chair lift will be operational later in 2022. 

Q: Can people with disabilities work with a personal trainer?
A: Yes! All of the O’Connor Center trainers have certifications from accredited institutions, and those certifications require an awareness of working with all kinds of people, including those with chronic diseases and/or mobility issues. Our trainers are encouraged to continuously learn about how to meet the specific needs of their clients. 

Q: I have some body image issues. Will working with a personal trainer exacerbate them?
A: Our personal trainers ask a few questions during your initial intake assessment, but they will avoid triggering assessments like asking your ‘goal weight’ or if your chronic condition can be ‘cured.’ For any person (with or without disabilities), answering a few intake questions gives your trainer more information about your needs and goals, and that helps them find appropriate and fun ways to challenge you at the gym. 

Q: What’s the best way to learn about what equipment is accessible to me?
A: Purchase a personal training session. (You can do just one session; you are not committed to working with that trainer or anyone else on an ongoing basis unless you want to do so.) 

Q: What’s the best way to learn about which classes are accessible to me?
A: Read class descriptions, and if you’re curious to learn more about a particular class, email Assistant Director of Fitness Jen Macko. 

When you choose a class, try to arrive early and talk to the instructor about ways to modify class to meet your needs. All instructors are trained to be accommodating. Don’t be afraid to ask the instructors; they’re wonderful, approachable people who enjoy responding to your questions about exercise. 

Q: I’d feel most comfortable visiting and exploring the gym when it’s not so busy. What times tend to be quieter and less crowded?
A: Late mornings and late afternoons tend to be the slowest times. Avoid the early morning, lunch, and the 4-8pm post-work window. (Pro tip: if you enjoy a quieter workout, the third floor tends to be less noisy at all times of day.) 

Q: Do you hope that I come check out O’Connor?
A: Yes, so much. It’s an amazing facility with a supportive staff dedicated to continuous learning so we can better serve the Hopkins community. We hope you visit us soon. 

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Terri Massie-Burrell Ph.D., Director of Disability Services for the Homewood campus, who reviewed and contributed to this post.