I’ve been teaching and training divers from all over the world and the scuba instruction I enjoy teaching the most is a course for special needs, people with disabilities and the scuba instructor course. Both offer many challenges both physical and emotional. When one thinks about scuba diving, you think about all of the wonderful things to see underwater. Weeks and days before a trip there are many things to think about including checking all the gear and planning the dives. Now, imagine if you are a person diving who has disabilities and special needs. That’s what this post is all about.
The first picture is Grace, a blind female who always wanted to learn to scuba dive. She was referred to me by an able bodied friend who felt Grace would be safe with me. Now this course took a bit longer, not because Grace wasn’t smart and didn’t understand the material, but because we had to spend a large amount of time on touch hand signs for everything underwater. We were able to talk on land and on the boat; but once underwater our communication was all by underwater hand touch signals. The way she responded was so heart warming and rewarding for me. Two weeks into our class she became a certified diver. Now you ask how does she dive? Grace can only dive with a certified diver who is also specially trained as a dive buddy.
My second student was paralyzed from the waist down and could only use his arms. The day he came to me, he had a big smile on his face like he knew something I didn’t and it touched me deeply.
As I wheeled him down the dock, the look on the faces from the other divers was troubling to me. Once on the boat we listened to a dive briefing and then we went to our spot on the boat and had our own briefing on how we would exit, enter the boat and review the emergency procedures with the crew. There are different procedures for people with different disabilities. Once all the divers went into the water it was our turn. After we entered the water and did our surface check I noticed that the other divers were not deep into their dive so I gave my diver the hand sign to submerge and we descended as all of the other divers watched. During our dive we saw lots of good stuff underwater and had an amazing time. When it was time to ascend we were the last to do our safety stop before we could go to the surface. Now on the surface the crew was ready to help my diver exit the water. As we came on board the boat everyone gave us a standing ovation. My student looked at me and said are you okay now? LOL!
Then there was my students, Trudy was 74 years old, deaf and 70% blind. Her husband Bill was 75 yrs. old and arthritic. The funny thing is I had known Bill and Trudy for about five years and Bill wanted her to learn to scuba dive. Bill, knowing my background, asked if I would take on the challenge of training them. Trudy is German and I had never spoken to her in German. The morning they reported for their first class room session, I surprised her and started speaking in German (being able to speak five languages always comes in handy). The look on Trudy’s face was priceless, she smiled, jumped up and gave me a hug-it was onward from there. Again it took me two weeks of hand touch signs for Trudy to understand what I needed from her underwater. She got it. Two weeks later on their 50th wedding anniversary they were both certified scuba divers. The training to work with divers with special needs and disabilities requires patience, time and most of all a good understanding of the type of disabilities you may encounter while teaching.
We at Divepath.com train instructors to the highest standards. We’ve worked with groups like Operation Scuba from Chicago who teaches scuba diving to Veterans with disabilities.
Dr. Jami EpsteinCourse Director Dive Path Scuba Instructor & Dive Master School at Camp Bay Beach Dive & Adventure Resort—Roatan Honduras. I have been diving since the age of 12. Through diligent study and hard work over the years, I have earned the prestigious titles of Boat Captain, Course Director, Specialty Instructor, Nitrox Instructor, CPR-First Aid Instructor, Handicapped Scuba Instructor, Open Water Scuba Instructor, and The Universal Referral Scuba Instructor. With over 10,000 dives, I am known for the way my attention to the little details of Scuba Instruction. Previously, I was a Psychotherapist, Marriage and Family Therapist, College Professor, Author and an Addiction Professional! If you are up for a rewarding sport and challenge contact us at Divepath.com or check our web site at www.Divepath.com