About the Aspire Leisure Centre The Aspire Leisure Centre is based in North West London within the grounds of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. The centre was the first fully accessible leisure centre in Europe for both disabled and non-disabled people. We offer a wide range of classes to cater to all levels of fitness and ability and proactively encourage disabled people to join in and take part in all activities at the centre. Our disabled members benefit from subsidised membership and activity costs and are also able to make use of our fully accessible gym and facilities. These facilities include a wheelchair accessible heated swimming pool; an Inclusive Fitness Initiative approved fitness studio and accessible gym equipment. We’re proud to say that over 32% of Aspire Leisure Centre members are disabled, compared to an average of just 2-3% at other sports centres nationally. We’re passionate about inclusive fitness and the good practice at Aspire Leisure Centre inspired our InstructAbility programme - a national project to train disabled people as fitness instructors. Aspire Leisure Centre has gained Quest (UK Quality Scheme for Sport and Leisure) registration as 'Very Good' and has been fully approved by the Inclusive Fitness Initiative with an "Excellent". Aspire is a national charity that provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury. A spinal cord injury can happen to anyone at any time, and no one is prepared for how it will change their life. Aspire exists because there is currently no cure. People with Spinal Cord Injury will lose muscle and sensory control and a large majority will become full time wheelchair users for the rest of their lives. Historically, the majority of spinal injuries have been sustained by those aged 21 to 30, with nearly three quarters of newly spinally injured people being male. However, Spinal Cord Injury is increasingly affecting older people now too. Approximately 2,500 people sustain a spinal cord injury in the UK each year.Through its projects and programmes, Aspire offers practical support to the 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK. This support allows people with spinal injury to lead fulfilled and independent lives in their homes, with their families, in their workplace and in leisure time. Mission: Aspire works with people with spinal cord injury to create opportunity, choice and independence. Vision: A world where people with spinal cord injury have equal opportunities in society. Aspire is dedicated to achieving a world where people with spinal cord injury have an equal place in society by removing physical obstacles, economic barriers and social prejudice that divide disabled and non-disabled people. Values: EQUALITY - we believe people with Spinal Cord Injury should have equal opportunities in life, free from physical obstacles, economic barriers and social prejudices. SOLUTIONS - we believe in supporting people with spinal cord injury move from injury to independence by finding practical solutions to problems. ENERGY – we are driven continually to adapt and react so as best to meet the changing needs of people with spinal cord injury. Our history Aspire was founded in 1983 around the kitchen table of Shannie Ross’s home in Hampstead, North West London. A friend, trainee doctor Scott Glickman, was working on the London Spinal Unit at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. He told her that the state-of-the-art medical treatment on the unit was being compromised by inadequate rehabilitation facilities. Together with businessman Ben Freedman and Spinal Unit medical director, Ian Bayley they decided to set up Aspire to raise funds to improve the London Spinal Unit rehabilitation facilities. Aspire founders Their vision quickly grew, and instead of just purchasing equipment, Bayley suggested that Aspire might build a whole new rehabilitation unit next to the spinal unit. Almost at once the idea of opening that facility to the general public, so as to promote integration between non-disabled and disabled users, was adopted. Andrew Walker, a lecturer at the Architectural Association in London, was appointed to design the new building. He had incurred a spinal cord injury and was a wheelchair user himself. In 1991, the £2 million facility was opened by HRH the Princess of Wales, who became Aspire’s royal patron and visited the facilities on many occasions. The building was named the Mike Heaffey Centre, after the chairman-elect of the Allied Dunbar Foundation who had lived in the Stanmore area and had died tragically in 1984. Allied Dunbar was the major funder of the building which included an integrated gym, a computer training room, a drama room and a full-size sports hall, complete with wheelchair accessible balcony. Mike Heaffey The new building was so successful in its aims that in 1998 Aspire raised a further £5 million from the Allied Dunbar Foundation, as well as the Sports Lottery and the Arts Lottery, to double the size of the centre with a major extension. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the Aspire National Training Centre included a wheelchair accessible swimming pool, dance studio, café and training suite. It was opened by HRH the Duke of York, who was shown around the building by Aspire’s vice-president, Margaret (Lady) Tebbit. Lady Tebbit had sustained a spinal cord injury in the IRA bombing of the 1984 Conservative Party conference, which she had been attending with her politician husband, Norman (Lord) Tebbit. In 1996 Aspire reached another landmark when it raised an endowment of £1.5 million to support a Professorial Chair in Disability and Technology at University College, London. For Aspire’s first ten years, the charity was run by the remarkable Shannie Ross who was awarded the MBE in recognition of her extraordinary achievements. However, it was her successor Martina Milburn, later Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, who successfully brought in the Aspire National Training Centre on time and on budget. Duke of York, Peter Stanford and Martina Milburn As the charity has grown and developed, trustees have included the acclaimed dancer, Celeste Dandeker OBE, who sustained a spinal cord injury while performing with London Contemporary Dance and went on to found the integrated dance company CandoCo. The theatrical impresario, Bill Freedman, and Nancy Robertson MBE, disability adviser to HRH The Prince of Wales have also been Aspire trustees. More recently the centre was re-named "Aspire Leisure Centre" and launched the new website, extended car park and launched the Aspire App. The Centre continues to offer fully inclusive leisure facilities and services for disabled and non-disabled people. With our deserved reputation for inclusive fitness, Aspire's expertise has also been used by the NHS in their recent video. The video also showcases some of the accessible gym equipment available for use at the centre.