Last week I was fortunate enough to be at a talk by Dr. Wilson Li of the International Association of Hand-in-Hand Divers. It was given at South China Diving Club’s weekly meeting and was a Medical Seminar on Adaptive Diving for the Disabled. Among other things Dr. Li covered :
- Common physical and mental handicaps, chronic illnesses
- The personality, behavior and social adaptation of the Disabled
- Special considerations in adapting scuba diving for the Disabled
Dr. Li’s presentation was enthusiastic, informative and inspiring. Very few of us had any experience of diving with disabled people, and were not aware of the pleasure and in some cases, the medical benefits, they can gain from diving.
One of the most impressive stories was about Matthew Johnston. When he was 7 he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), which is a debilitating neuromuscular disease. By the time he was 27 he only had mobility in his thumbs and depended on a ventialtor to breathe. Typical life expectancy for people with this illness is 30 years. Despite this he dreamed of diving, and had the determination to make his dream a reality. He may not be diving in the sense that most of us go diving, and he does require a dive team to support him. But few people can have had the determination to overcome such insurmountable odds to experience diving.
Closer to home in Hong Kong, the International Association of Hand-in-Hand Divers (IAHD) is working to help disabled divers to try diving. They now have over 100 members and have run a number of Discover Scuba Diver Courses for Physically Handicapped People. They have even organised overseas trips to the Philippines.
If you are an instructor or just a diver who is interested in helping out, you should take a look at their website – http://www.iahd.org.hk/, although it is only in Chinese at the moment. And if you get chance to go to one of their presentations then I would thoroughly recommend it, as it may change the way you think about diving and instructing.