OXSRAD is an integrated sports facility in Oxford, offering a lifeline to users with disabilities or going through rehabilitation. It is the only centre in the UK where everything from the gym to the trapeze class is offered to mixed ability users.
OXSRAD has an ambitious fundraising target to keep their facilities accessible to all and to secure a minibus to help users who have difficulty accessing transport. Longer term, they would like to extend their premises so they can offer their services even wider. They are keen to increase the awareness of the centre within the healthcare community to ensure that as many people as possible are made aware of the services on offer. Very often patients who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses are discharged from hospital with limited options for ongoing fitness and rehabilitation.
To meet their outreach and funding objectives, the OXSRAD team wanted to improve their web presence, increase their social media output and create communications materials such as leaflets and posters that could contribute to fundraising and recruitment targets. Because OXSRAD is a difficult place to describe in a few words, a short film is a major asset for recruiting new users and to support fundraising applications. A limited budget means that photos, words and film need to work for multiple audiences.
Cat, Maria and filmmaker Jason Evans worked with the OXSRAD team to provide film, a captioned image gallery, profiles of OXSRAD users, social media content, leaflets and posters.
Filmmaker Jason Evans worked with Illuminate to produce two short films for OXSRAD. The films will be invaluable in supporting fundraising applications, securing a new patron and recruiting new users to the centre. The films feature the six OXSRAD ‘stars’ who feature in all the materials produced by Illuminate. Through their stories, we learn about the many ways that OXSRAD can help them physically and also the huge social and moral boost that it provides.
Integration is at the heart of OXSRAD. It is important that able-bodied clients identify with the centre’s mission and understand it. Anybody who wants to rent the centre, whether it is an exercise class or a dance class or a martial arts class, can only do so if they allow all users to enter that class. If the person running the class isn’t familiar with working with mixed abilities, the OXSRAD team will help.
OXSRAD facilities include a fully integrated gym with specialist equipment such as MOTOmed and SCIFIT, both training equipment for users with limited mobility and wheelchair users, a spa bath, sensory room, onsite physiotherapy, Rebound Therapy using trampolines, and the Paralympic sport boccia.
Paul Saxton (‘Sax’) is the manager of OXSRAD. His responsibilities include overseeing the services the centre provides, financial management and property management. He also provides specialist personal training services to OXSRAD users. He is a competitive cyclist and a former coach of Women’s Super League football.
“There is no such thing as ‘we can’t do it’ here. If someone says they’d like to get on the treadmill, we’ll find a way of doing that. We really do think outside the box. There’s nothing we think we can’t achieve.
“It’s really important for us when we are working with a client that we are creating a really good friendship and also helping them to achieve something they wouldn’t otherwise be doing. As a team, we are really proud that we can achieve that. You couldn’t want more in a job than to be able to help someone achieve a big goal.
“I love my job. Hardest job I have ever done. Best job I have ever done.”
Hamzah is 13 years old and has been visiting OXSRAD since he was nine. Hamzah has cerebral palsy which affects his fine motor skills and has left him unable to walk. He uses the gym to build up his physical strength.
“The people here are just great role models. My personal trainer, Sax, makes me feel like my disability isn’t a disadvantage but a challenge. He makes me feel like a better person.
“I used to hate the fact that I had this disability. The gym makes me feel proud of myself and that I’m moving my life in the right direction.
“It has really changed my life for the better. I just love this place.”
Katie has cerebral palsy, leaving her unable to walk unaided and with stiffness and spasticity in the muscles. Rebound Therapy – an intensive one- to-one technique using trampolines to increase strength, stamina, balance and co-ordination – allows her freedom of movement and relaxation of the muscles as well as stimulating her digestive system.
Katie visits OXSRAD with her partner Rory who she met while they were both studying at National Star College. Rory runs the boccia group at OXSRAD, a Paralympic sport similar to bowls.
“I was always looking for some form of exercise because you know what it’s like as you get older, your body’s not quite the same as it was! I’ve never been able to use a trampoline before so I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I love it! I come every week. We hang out – we have met a lot of friends here, it has a nice social atmosphere. People don’t see the disability here, I’m just Katie. We’re all together.
“I come once a week but I’d come more often if I lived closer. I’d don’t think they’d be able to get rid of me! Tuesday is a highlight of my week.”
Joel has transverse myelitis, acquired as a complication from chicken pox in 2009. Inflammation of his spinal cord causes nervous system scars that interrupt communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body, leaving him unable to walk unaided. Joel’s deep commitment to a rigorous gym routine has resulted in greater mobility than originally predicted by his medical team.
“I come here 3-4 hours a day, six days a week. I take Sundays off! I need the routine and the exercise to strengthen my muscles. When I first came here, I was following YouTube for gym advice. Now I follow Sax’s advice. He always supports me.
“I’ve been coming here about four years. I practically live here! They have even changed schedules around to suit me as I am here so often. We support each other because we are classmates here.”
Edward suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident when he was seven years old. Following his accident, he had to relearn how to walk, talk and sit upright. He has made tremendous progress in the intervening years and was the first wheelchair user to complete the Blenheim 7km fun run. He visits OXSRAD three times a week, receiving personal training from the centre manager Paul Saxton.
“I come here three times a week to use the gym and to do spinning and core sessions. I come here other times for a social. I also help as a volunteer, helping in the kitchen and do anything around the centre that needs doing.
“Today when I was doing a spinning session, I got it up to 113 rpm which is the highest I’ve ever got it. So it must be helping. And when I started doing my core sessions, I could only sit up so far and I could only get my shoulders so far up from the mat and I’ve recently been able been able to do a full sit up.
“I’m like part of the family here. I’ve been coming here for about three years and I like the friendships I’ve got whether it be people working here or people using the centre. It’s basically like a home from home.”
Jane was left paralysed from the waist down after suffering an aneurysm on Christmas Day in 2009. She trains on the SCIFIT bikes, designed for people who are inured, paralysed or battling disease, to keep her legs active and to improve her fitness.
“When you are first in a chair, everything is intimidating. It took me about three years to get used it. I was intimidated when I first came here, but they show you how to use the equipment and they are so friendly, you soon get the hang of it.
“OXSRAD is very unique because after the gym you can have a coffee and chat to people and the staff make you feel so welcome, it’s lovely. After the hard work, I enjoy it!
“Sax is a lovely, lovely man. He’s given me encouragement over the years. When I first came, I couldn’t use the SCIFIT bike as well as I can now. I always had to have a bit of help with my hands but now I can do it just with my legs and that’s with him showing me how to do things better and how to get more push out of my legs. And of course he’s a good laugh as well!”
Alasdair has cerebral palsy. He cannot walk unaided and it is important that he retains the strength he has in his arms. He visits OXSRAD every week and follows a full programme including MOTOmed, physio, punch bag and Rebound Therapy. He is also a keen boccia player. He has been using OXSRAD for about five years.
“I play boccia, which is a Paralympic sport similar to bowls. It’s quite precise and the guys I play with are quite challenging and want to win! It’s fun and I get to meet new people. Usually when you go to a gym, you work on your own. But in the boccia session we get to talk about things we’ve done in the week, like football or the cinema.
“My legs don’t work as well as yours so that limits me in what I can do. The exercises I do here help my legs to loosen. I have an exercise programme that I do on a regular basis and my doctor has said that if I do all these activities, I will get stronger.
“The people who work here are brilliant. Sax really pushes me. I feel a bit alone if I do it myself. If I do it with Sax, even though I feel a bit sore, I want to do more because I want to be stronger than I already am. It’s really motivating.
“Over the years, OXSRAD has really built me to be a stronger person. If I didn’t have OXSRAD, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.”
During the day, the majority of OXSRAD users are disabled. From 4pm onwards, it is mostly able-bodied gym users and classes. The centre is used for runners, spin classes, dance, karate, yoga, archery, silks and zumba. The income from such classes subsides the costs for disabled clients.
Mini Professionals Dance Academy runs ballet, hip hop and contemporary dance classes at OXSRAD, using a bespoke dance studio.
AfreakA Aerials run aerial silks classes. The main sports hall has an assortment of silks, hoops and trapeze to train on.