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My deafness didn't stop me becoming a fitness influencer

Photo: India Morse, the fitness influencer behind You Lean Me Up

While travelling the world to overcome heartbreak, India Morse (30) rediscovered her one true love, fitness.

“I fell in love with the way training makes me feel,” says India, who’s profoundly deaf. “I found that the gym is my therapy, which made me want to use it to help others.”

However, when she started out in the fitness world, India, who communicates using British Sign Language (BSL) and speech, faced accessibility challenge after challenge with gyms and instructors using loud music and spoken instructions in classes. “There was nothing written down or accessible at all,” India explains. “I’d be trying hard to keep up with what was coming next, and would end up feeling lost and completely useless and go home crying.”

Even at industry events, little would be done to make them accessible. “The events and networking aspect of the fitness world was one of the hardest parts, because everyone’s in a group talking,” India remembers. “Often, I just had to nod along. It got to a point where I decided that enough was enough, I was going to ask for support and take accessibility further.”

While India faced these barriers alone, she realised that she wasn’t alone in experiencing a lack of accessibility in fitness. And she wanted to change that. “If so many deaf people struggle with this, why can’t I do something to make them feel good in themselves, and communicate in the same language as them?”

India Morse and Joe Wicks filming accessible exercise videos

This led to the creation of You Lean Me Up, India’s deaf-friendly online coaching and fitness business. India has even partnered with Joe Wicks. “We’ve recorded a deaf-friendly series for his YouTube channel,” India explains. “I thought it would be a great opportunity as the deaf community needs this so much!

“It feels really nice that my hard work is paying off. Hopefully the videos with Joe will reach a wide audience. I just want to keep on improving accessibility in the fitness industry.”

Find out more about India at You Lean Me Up and watch her accessible workouts with Joe Wicks on his YouTube channel The Body Coach.