NewsUplifting Arizona


Pair starts Able Fit, a Phoenix gym to empower people with disabilities

Posted at 9:31 AM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 17:03:38-05

In this fitness class in North Phoenix, they are lifting heavy and pushing as hard as they can. It's a small group coached by Lillian Vosa and Sarah Farison, who both say fitness is a huge part of their life.

Vosa has been body-building and competing for years and Farison loves the intense challenge of Cross Fit.

For work, they are both speech pathologists in the public school system.

“We got assigned to the same school to work together and we just sort of bonded over our shared fitness passion which was sort of a coincidence,” said Vosa.

That coincidence is what put them here, operating Able Fit, offering weightlifting classes for clients who have a cognitive disability.

The idea came after a frustrating day at work.

“I want things to be better for these kids,” said Farison. “They sit in the classroom all day, they go to PE and they walk around the field, like how can we make this better?”

The two started Able Fit with one client and by word-of-mouth, the gym has grown one by one. The coaches say they keep their expectations high at each person's level of fitness.

Bench press, squats, deadlifts, kettlebells - nothing is off the table.

“Everything that you and I would feel and improve on when we're enjoying fitness and a healthier lifestyle, we're seeing it with them as well,” said Vosa.

It wasn't long ago Leanna started learning squats with a PVC pipe. She doesn't need it anymore. Her mom, Margie Schnell, says there's a lesson she learned from another parent in the group.

“Always presume competence for your kids,” said Schnell. “Presume they may start trying things, not perfectly like we all do, but they can build up. Presume competence.”

Kade Brandhagen is nonverbal but he can still communicate how these classes have changed his life.

“The gym has helped my voice sound louder,” said Brandhagen. “Motor issues make it hard to speak. The gym makes my brain work to form words more easily. Having friends makes my life worthwhile. It has made me happy.”

Vosa says it’s empowering to watch their clients grow personally and physically.

“It's really cool to see our idea just expand and grow and to see it helping in the moment.”

Able Fit is accepting new clients. For more information, email or contact the coaches through Facebook.