The Gift of Moving Freely: Underwater Excursion Removes Limitations

Although people in wheelchairs have limited mobility on land, they can enjoy freedom of movement underwater. That's the rationale behind Marine Discovery Dive, a program organized by a Malaysian nonprofit organization called People Support People. Participants who are normally confined to wheelchairs have the opportunity to experience the thrill of undersea exploration during an open water scuba dive.

Scuba divers

The People Support People society's chairman, E.K. Lim, first organized the dive out of a desire to help people with different abilities overcome their limitations. As of 2016, the society has held the annual event for five years. The 2016 dive took place in the waters off Tioman Island in Pahang. Its 29 participants earned it an entry in the Malaysian Book of Records as the largest scuba diving event for people with different abilities ever held in the country. Participants descended to a depth of up to 6 meters during their 30 minute dive.

People with different abilities who sign up undergo six months of training twice a week for two to three hours to learn basic swimming skills before the actual event. During the event, certified dive instructors swim alongside them to ensure their safety. Most beaches and boats are not normally wheelchair accessible, so volunteers go to great lengths on land and in the water in assisting professional instructors with mobility and training tasks.

Many participants express misgivings and outright fear before they begin, but they all show great courage and perseverance once they get into it. After the dive, many of the participants testify of new-found confidence, satisfaction and fulfillment. They realize that the sea is a great equalizer when it comes to mobility.

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