India was born deaf and has dedicated her platform to raising awareness about the need for more inclusivity in the fitness world, and has just launched her own online training program aimed at people who are hard of hearing.
"I started going to the gym as a distraction after being heartbroken but quickly discovered accessibility was poor in many London gyms and classes," she tells the Standard. "I remember feeling left out by other fitness bloggers and felt as though I would never fit in. I would go home crying as I felt I missed out on information.
"Then I thought, 'enough is enough!' and it was time for me to step up and address this problem myself. I decided to become a fitness blogger and document my experiences, and as time went on, people started to recognize me in classes and made the effort to make me feel more involved. "
The barriers India has faced in classes are primarily centered around communication, she explains: "Specifically because people do not know British Sign Language (BSL) but also because of the dark and loud environments which make it very difficult to lip-read.
"I would say that about 90 percent of fitness classes do not cater to everyone for these reasons," she adds.
There are a number of changes to the setup of classes that India says would make them more accessible to the deaf community.
"First and foremost, it would be amazing if the staff at gyms and studios knew BSL to communicate with deaf people, even if just the very basics, it would make a deaf person's day! Alternatively, I would encourage instructors to use more gestures and be less verbal. If they could try to avoid walking around whilst teaching that would also help us to lip-read more easily."
Simply not having such a dark studio and clearly displaying sequences at the front of the class would also help.
"I have been going to F45 in Stratford for the past four years and I feel as though I really fit in there. They have video demonstrations on TVs around the room showing what to do, with the name of the exercises." In the past, she explains, it was difficult to learn the names of exercises because she was unable to hear the instructors.
"I've also gone to some spinning classes where they have a screen showing you when to move up a level on your bike which is helpful. Otherwise, instructors can always wave in my direction or quickly switch the lights on and off in the studio as that would be a good way of letting me know to move up a gear."
Loud music can also be a distraction for those wear hearing aids, she adds: "I personally do not use hearing aids but I know that some people rely on them. It would be best to have no music at all but I know hearing people like it so I guess there needs to be a balance. If the room was quieter, instructors could stomp on the floor if they want my attention, as a deaf person I would feel the vibrations and look up."
Despite her efforts, India says she has seen little improvement in terms of accessibility in the fitness world over the last few years, "deafness is an invisible disability which is often forgotten about," she says.
So she was motivated to set up her own online coaching platform, youleanmeup.fit, in partnership with Lenus, which caters to both the deaf and hearing world.
"I use BSL in my video exercise demonstrations but have an interpreter voicing over everything that I am signing. I also have captions on these videos too. I work as an online coach to my clients and they are able to access a workout program with nutrition guides and recipes. I also deliver 1:1 sessions to check that clients are doing the correct form in their workouts. If you are deaf you can train with me and understand me in your first language and if not, you can learn some sign language with me whilst training. It's all about making it happen in an inclusive way for all and obviously, lockdown is the perfect time for online workouts!"
India, who is an Under Armour athlete and regularly works with other brands in sponsored content deals, says there needs to be more representation of people with disabilities of any kind by major activewear brands. "It would be good to see it more as a long-term thing rather than a one-off, it would make us feel more valued."
The same goes for studios. "It is a great shame that I haven't ever seen a deaf or disabled person working at a fitness studio. Under the Equality Act 2010, all employers should set out reasonable adjustments for deaf and disabled people, there is an Access to Work (ATW) grant that we can apply for which means we can have support in the workplace, so if I worked at a studio and needed a sign language interpreter I could use one of these grants to get one," she explains.
For now, she's excited about her new project which has already seen interest from clients based around the world, including in Australia, Greece, and Africa.
"I am so passionate about the work that I do, I love waking up in the morning to motivate people with their fitness. I have always dreamt of being an online coach and never thought it would actually happen but I am proof that if you work hard and put your mind to it you will get the results. This has nothing to do with deafness, if you work hard you will get there."