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Training Adaptive Divers: How to get started?

Adaptive Diving Training
Source: PADI

By: Amal Pillai

The underwater world has fascinated humans since the dawn of civilization. Over the years, exploring this world full of lush aquatic life has become accessible to every individual on this planet, including those living their lives with disabilities.

When it comes to experiencing underwater diving, most disabled persons are unaware of the challenges that arise due to their disability, and the adaptations required for their training. In this article we will break down all the information on how Adaptive Diving Instructors are trained to cater for the requirements of varied disability profiles, physiological and psychological adaptations for the disabled, different levels of training, certification, and how to get started with it.

If you are familiar with the scuba diving industry then you would have heard of PADI, NAUI, SSI and other scuba certifying agencies. However, the Handicap Scuba Association (HSA), the leading governing body to certify people with disabilities in scuba diving, is at the forefront of training instructors in adaptive diving. HSA provides specialized knowledge and expertise to the trainee for efficiently rehabilitating a disabled diver underwater.

Anyone with an open water diver certification and above can undertake the HSA Dive Buddy Course (DBC), the first step in adaptive diving training. It is a specialty module that imparts knowledge and understanding about various physical and intellectual disabilities, how they affect people, what problems to expect, how to safely assist a disabled diver, and a lot more.

As a Dive Buddy trainee, one simulates various disability conditions like paraplegia, quadriplegia, blindness, etc. to gain a first-hand experience in diving with a disability. The training involves exercises such as tying legs together with fins off, blindfolding and relying on tactical methods for underwater communication, and simulating functional loss of stomach and spinal cord with necessary modifications. Specialized skills such as dive preparations based on disability type, assisting with scuba gears and equipment, dive planning, underwater buoyancy, controlled emergency ascent, etc. are mastered to assist the disabled diver both underwater as well as on the surface. This can be an equally overwhelming and rewarding experience as it develops the logistical skills and techniques required for conducting a safe and comfortable dive.

Upon continuing underwater education, a dive buddy can get trained to become an Adaptive Scuba Diving Instructor and even a Course Director with time and experience. However, it is mandatory for a trainee to be certified at a leadership level (Instructor/Assistant Instructor/Dive Master) by a recognized diver training organization to undertake HSA Instructor training.

As an instructor trainee, one deepens his/her understanding of various disability profiles, specific adaptation and physiological performance requirements, specialized confined and open water skills, and course standards to certify disabled divers in Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Dive Buddy training. One can also partner up with HSA as a Course Director, teach HSA Instructor candidates to safely train, assess and certify disabled divers, set up an HSA Training Center with your local dive center and offer all the HSA certification training to the community.

In today’s world where people are constantly seeking for time and financial independence, Adaptive Scuba Diving can be a fulfilling career choice for someone looking at the right mix of travel, adventure and purpose.

Happy Diving!

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:


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