By: Amal Pillai
Scuba diving is one of the most sought after recreational activities across the globe. Right from children to adults to elderly citizens, everybody fathoms the less explored world which is underwater. But did you know that there are over 1.5 billion people in the world who are suffering from some form of disability? Most of these people are not aware that they can access this underwater world and explore the many riches it has to offer.
If you, or someone you know relates to this, and have ever wondered about putting on a BCD, diving into the depths of the ocean and experiencing weightlessness like you are in space, buckle up and read on. Today we will demystify all the myths around diving with disabilities.
First, scuba diving is for everyone; disabled and able bodied alike. With the right amount of training and implementation of adaptive techniques, almost anyone can explore the underwater world. And, the benefits of diving are tremendous. It not only stimulates
physical health and enhanced mobility of limbs but also challenges one’s endurance, grit and develops a specific mindset which all people share.
On a biological level, diving evokes a synergistic sympathetic and parasympathetic response which enhances the nervous and circulatory functions in the body. It uplifts the spirit of a diver by making an entire world full of life, adventure and possibilities accessible to them. Diving unlocks a whole new perspective towards oneself and leaves you in a state of wonder and amazement that can hardly be described in words.
Adaptive scuba diving has been around for over four decades now. One of the pioneers in adaptive diving, the Handicap Scuba Association (HSA), started off as a research program in 1975 at University of California-Irvine and is now considered the world’s leading governing body for training people with disabilities in scuba diving. HSA has presence in over 45 countries across the globe, and has more than 4,000 trained Adaptive Diving Instructors. In addition to HSA, PADI, and other non-profit associations have programs that offer adaptive scuba diving training for people in and across the United States (see below for a sample list).
Whether someone has visual or hearing impairments, amputations, spinal cord injuries, cognitive disorders or even multiple sclerosis, there are different adaptive techniques and communication styles to suit so many needs. Many of the obstacles and difficulties faced on land disappear in water. Today, there are hundreds of highly trained Adaptive Diving Instructors in the United States who can meet the needs of a disabled person, and assist them in experiencing life underwater.
Please note, there are certain things one must know before undergoing training in adaptive diving. The most important being consulting with your medical provider and assess if you have any specific heart, respiratory, circulatory, or sinus condition that might be a cause of worry. Once the basic health requirements are satisfied and your medical provider has approved you for training, you are just one step closer to reaping the exhilarating benefits of the underwater world.
In a world of endless possibilities, it is time to celebrate the ability and courage of each person.
Amal is a PADI certified rescue diver and has also been working with adaptive scuba diving students. Thank you for bringing smiles to so many.
Adaptive Diving Associations and Dive Centers:
· University of Indiana – Adaptive Scuba Association
· A1 Scuba
· The Scuba Company (partnered with the Cody Unser First Step Foundation)