There are currently 2 billion people around the world living with a disability, of which some 20% experience significant limitations every day, according to the World Health Organization. It’s no wonder then, that when people with these disabilities have the opportunity to try scuba diving, their reaction can be one of total joy. As wheelchair user and diving advocate Cody Unser puts it, in the water “I’m free!” The weightless environment of diving is certainly a great advantage for people who face physical challenges on land, but it can also provide a huge boost to mental health, easing anxiety and depression too.
Diving and thriving
While many divers find that scuba helps to improve breathing technique and muscle tone, there is also evidence to show a much broader benefit to health for those with disabilities. Research with military veterans has shown that scuba diving can help to alleviate chronic pain and depression, as well as reducing anxiety and insomnia. For the veteran amputees in the study, the need to focus completely underwater, combined with experiencing weightlessness, was a powerful boost for their mental health in particular.
The world awaits
While the Cayman has built a strong reputation for divers with accessibility concerns due to its gentle currents and large number of qualified instructors on hand, other areas such as Indonesia, Cozumel and the Maldives are just as welcoming. Cruising is predicted to be one of 2020’s top travel trends, and can be a good way to reach these areas for divers with disabilities. For breathtaking views and stunning marine life, the Galapagos islands are hard to beat, and with cruise companies becoming more accessibility aware, creating the diving holiday of your dreams is easier than ever to achieve.
Licence to thrill
So where do you sign up? Depending on your individual circumstances, it may be entirely possible to to take a solo diving certification, but equally, it may be more appropriate to find an instructor who is qualified to dive alongside people with specialist needs. The Scuba Trust, IAHD and HSA train instructors with exactly this purpose in mind, and are a good place to start for information. A qualified instructor or diving buddy will be able to seek out gentler currents, allow plenty of time for getting gear on and off, and be alert to the possibility of divers having a higher rate of air consumption, depending on their health concerns.
For those experiencing limits on land, a trip underwater can open up a breathtaking new world. Whether you’re seeking physical or mental health benefits or are simply out to capture the most stunning holiday photos, a disability needn’t hold you back from a great scuba trip. Look for qualified and knowledgeable instructors who can help your specific situation, and prepare to feel free in the sea.
Article kindly submitted by Jen Johnson