Dessa Cosma’s honest blog post about her humiliating encounter as a woman with a disability wanting to take a zumba class is echoing within the instructor community:
I am so moved by the power and grace of your well measured words describing your experience. Thank you.
There are all kinds of people in the world and I’m so sorry you crossed paths with someone who neither understood your circumstances nor the heart and soul of Zumba Fitness, which is all about inclusion. Zumba Instructors who have taken Zumba Gold training are thoroughly prepared to instruct to those in wheelchairs. My first of many trainings took place in 2008 by two women considered to be legends in the industry, Joy Prouty and Josie Gardiner, they prepared me to instruct to all populations.
I have since enjoyed instructing to those in wheelchairs, those with Parkinson’s Disease, men and women who have single or multiple amputations and children living with ASD and Downs Syndrome. Thousands of Zumba Instructors teach to classes that consist exclusively of participants in wheelchairs; others have classes with a mixed participant base.
One of my dearest friends and a personal hero of mine instructs from her wheelchair. Her name is Corina Gutierez and I thought you might like to read the article about Corina written by Dr. Pamela Peeke.
The reasons your experience unfolded as it did are not known to me. I make no excuses for the instructor you encountered. Perhaps she was simply unthinking. Perhaps she had never been in this situation before and did not have the skills to handle the newness nor the tools to let you know that in a kind and graceful way. Maybe she was just clueless of how we affect one another.
Clearly her lack of a compassionate response to you and her unacceptable lack of awareness caused you harm and for that I am sorry. Minimally she might have advised that she was not qualified to know how to assist you and that she was concerned that she was not skilled in the ways to ensure your safety. Certainly she should have made you aware of any Zumba Gold classes in your region, specifically designed to accommodate those in chairs.
But let me tell you a little something about the power of your words. I am honored to serve as the Community Manager or our Zumba Instructor Network – made up of thousands of Zumba Instructors around the world. I will take your story to our global network of instructors so that they may become more aware of what this felt like from your perspective. We will have a global discussion about how to address and approach those who wish to participate when we might not yet have the training or skills to include them safely or confidently.
And we will discuss basic human dignity when communicating with one another. These are topics that are part of our training but they can never be emphasized enough and you have reignited the importance of the inclusive nature of Zumba Fitness and how essential compassionate, respectful and effective communication is between instructor and participant.
I invite you to contact me at ANY time so I can help hook you up with a complimentary Zumba class so that you might give us another look.
On behalf of the thousands of instructors who dedicate themselves to those in wheelchairs and our many instructors who are instructing from wheelchairs, please do not judge our fitness program by this one experience. Second chances can lead to very good things