Scuba Diving for People with Disabilities

9th September 2013   |   Jackie Hutchings

It’s common knowledge that swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It tones muscles, strengthens the cardiovascular system and improves joint mobility. And, for some people, it’s the only exercise they can do. The 2012 Paralympics opened the world’s eyes to what people with disabilities can achieve when they’re in water. But what about scuba diving?

You could be forgiven for thinking that scuba diving for people with disabilities would be an impossible sport but you’d be wrong. Imagine being confined to a wheelchair and then imagine how it would feel to experience the freedom of weightlessness and being underwater. Scuba diving is fast becoming a sport that more and more disabled people are taking up and enjoying. The benefits are boundless.

Benefits of Scuba Diving if you’re Disabled

This will vary from individual to individual but the benefits are wide ranging and often life changing. Here are just a few. Apart from getting exercise, disabled divers report that scuba diving gives them:

  • Enhanced movement – They can move their limbs in a way they can’t on land
  • A sense of freedom they never experience on land
  • Relief from anxiety and stress (there is a lot of evidence that scuba plays an big part in helping veterans overcome post-traumatic stress syndrome)
  • A feeling of being in control again
  • Confidence
  • Equality with able bodied people
  • Self belief

So, where do you start?

Before you do anything else, visit your doctor just to make sure it’s ok for you to learn to dive. Then, find a dive centre qualified to give the specialist training you need. Look for dive centres who offer courses by the Handicap Scuba Association (HSA), the International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD) or Disabled Divers International (DDI).

It’s also worth contacting Diveheart. Founded by Jim Elliott in 2001, this organisation is committed to helping people with disabilities learn to dive. They run regular training programmes, largely in the US but have branched out into the UK.

Here’s a short clip about how scuba diving has changed one man’s life following a spinal injury.

[Photo credit : Diveheart]


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