Divers with disabilities can experience psychological rehabilitation as they realize the freedom experienced upon entering the water. Many Cayman Islands operators cater to all types of disability with custom built dive boats and staff on hand to accommodate their various needs.
Since 1999, dive instructors representing various operators on Grand Cayman have been undergoing rigorous training to update and refresh their instructor skills to be able to address the needs of special needs divers, to teach handicapped persons to scuba dive the Cayman Islands.
Under the guidance of recognized disabled instructor Fraser Bathgate of the United Kingdom a group of eight instructors participated in a 4-day certification seminar. Fraser who is a member of the following scuba associations – PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors); IAHD (the International Association of Handicapped Divers ); IANTD (International Associations of Nitrox & Technical Divers) and a founding member of the National Disabled Diving Centre in the United Kingdom – is himself a paraplegic.
Divetech and Cobalt Coast Resort in Grand Cayman were the hosts for the Diveheart Week in September 2006. The intensive 5-day course resulted in seven Divetech staff being certified as Scuba Instructors. The course entailed a history of psychological adjustment to disabilities, disability due to spinal injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, amputations, hearing and impairment, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, cancer, asthma, seizure disorders, certification to standards, special training considerations, lifting techniques, wetsuit donning and paraplegic and quadriplegic training.
Whether you are a certified scuba diver or wish to become one, Divetech can now offer training through the Handicapped Scuba Association for Disabled People. Buddy training is also available for friends of disabled divers, to help their buddies in the exploration of the underwater world.
The Diveheart Foundation was founded in early 2001 and is a non-profit tax-exempt national organization, providing and supporting educational SCUBA diving and snorkeling experience programs that are open to any physically impaired child or adult in the hope of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic assistance to that person. It is the can do spirit that the Diveheart Foundation hopes to instill in all its participants, giving them the confidence and independence that allows them to face their own life challenges and overcome barriers that before might have seemed insurmountable.
The courses have enabled instructors to be IAHD or HSA certified to train both mentally and physically handicapped individuals to dive. Some of the conditions that instructors have been trained to work with include autism, cerebella ataxia, emotionally disturbed individuals, paraplegic and quadriplegics, persons with Downs Syndrome and some forms of mental deficiency.
The courses are designed to give the participants specialized instruction in all types of disability relating to Scuba Diving. Initially, they are made familiar with the various problems associated with disabilities in everyday life, followed by confined and open water training. Scenarios are built into the course so that once qualified, the instructors are capable of teaching the blind and deaf, quadriplegics, tetraplegics and people of various forms of mental and physical disablement.
The participants on the course represented the following dive operations on the island:
In addition to this list there are a number of other operators that have instructors familiar with and certified to teach the disabled to dive.