Scuba Diving with Disabilities: Anyone Can Do It!

Are you wondering if you can scuba dive? The answer is yes, you can! Scuba diving can be enjoyed by anyone. Our underwater world is incredible and should be embraced by everyone and not excluded to those with disabilities. Scuba diving takes those suffering...

Are you wondering if you can scuba dive? The answer is yes, you can! Scuba diving can be enjoyed by anyone. Our underwater world is incredible and should be embraced by everyone and not excluded to those with disabilities. Scuba diving takes those suffering from physical and mental pain to a world of freedom and weightlessness.

The health benefits of scuba diving

The benefits of scuba diving for disabled and non-disabled people are tremendous. Diving can improve the health and fitness of anyone. Diving challenges your endurance and improves your cardiovascular strength. The feeling of gliding underwater in this ethereal world has amazing calming effects. Divers who have PTSD or anxiety, find diving relieves their stress and depression. Focusing on the aspects of a dive, whether it’s magnificence of colour or the magic of seeing new and entertaining species, offers an escape that stays with you even after you resurface.

Diving also allows for more mobility. Those with limited or a complete lack of mobility can easily swim with assistance. Paraplegic divers can move independently underwater with the help of specialized webbed gloves. Others who are quadriplegic can scuba dive with the support of a professionally trained instructor. They are guided through the water while they relax and breathe slowly. Many paralyzed people have said they begin to feel more sensations in their paralyzed areas with each dive. People with chronic pain have also said that their discomfort is reduced underwater; the weight of the world is lifted off of their shoulders the minute they descend for a dive.

Most of all, scuba diving is a social sport and allows people, disabled or not, to interact with one another. Diving together as buddies encourages participation, important communication, and can reduce feelings of isolation. As humans, we are extremely social creatures. Some of the best help we can offer to ourselves and others, is to share experiences and feelings together.


Learn to dive with certified PADI and HSA instructors

Many professional divers work to level the playing field between disabled and non-disabled people. One renowned organization is the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA). The HSA started as an idea in 1975. The University of California Irvine conducted a study on the self-image changes of students with disabilities when they learned to dive with students without disabilities. One of these students, Jim Gatacre, wanted to help others with disabilities learn to dive. On June 22, 1981, the HSA was officially founded when PADI donated their first equipment.

The HSA now has over 4,000 underwater educators and locations in over 45 countries. The HSA adapts all PADI scuba courses to match the needs of each student. Through the years, they have found the best ways to work with multiple disabilities. They have taken the hand signals that divers use and adapted them for blind divers. The hand signs, become touches on the arm that will relay information. Divers with mental disabilities are given the time and patience they need to understand each step and be comfortable in the water.

HSA also offers an instructor course to help others teach and work with disabled people. Their certified instructors will travel around the world to teach at dive centres. During a 3-day workshop, they learn how to adapt their teaching styles for different students. Different communication styles are also taught to match each disability. Of course, they also focus on the best ways to keep each diver safe. This certification lets local instructors spread their knowledge to others in their area and offers more locations for disabled divers to travel and dive.


What to know before you dive

Many scuba courses, skills and pieces of equipment have been adapted by professionals to suit the needs of various disabilities. Everyone still has to complete the performance requirements necessary to obtain their scuba diving certifications. Together, the student and instructor will work together to find the best ways to work with their disability and complete all of the requirements. As with everyone, there are some basic health requirements in order to dive. The safety procedures must be something each diver can complete and understand. To keep everyone safe, it is required that potential divers pass the health requirements. Those who suffer from severe mental illness, heart, circulatory, respiratory tract, nasal, sinus or ear conditions might not be allowed to scuba dive.

While diving, there are no differences between disabled people and able-bodied people underwater. As an instructor, it is both challenging and rewarding to teach diving at all levels. Working to overcome certain challenges and see your students succeed is an extremely rewarding experience. With all the advantages the ocean and diving can bring, everyone should try diving for themselves.


Disability Dive Courses with OrcaNation

We believe scuba diving is for everyone, which is why we have OrcaNation Dive Professionals trained by the HSA (Handicapped Scuba Association). Our OrcaNation Dive Centre based at Rawa Island, Malaysia is the ideal location for teaching those with disabilities. Currents are perfectly suited for first time divers, as well as experienced divers.

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