Nobody likes to be told no. I know that I certainly don’t. And a disability is not a reason to tell a potential scuba diver no. The Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) has created a program for teaching and accompanying scuba divers with disabilities.
Last weekend (March 25-27, 2016) I became a Handicapped Scuba Association Instructor #3875. For anybody who has ever read basically anything I’ve written in the last six years, you know how much I love scuba diving, as well as how much I enjoy sharing it with others.
I spent Friday-Sunday at the Eastern Academy of Scuba Education (EASE) house down in Vero Beach, FL. The EASE House is a great space for scuba education period! Our Course Director, Philippe Yersin was great, and I really liked the job he did slowing down to explain things during the academic portion, and paying particular attention to our skills during the confined and open water portion of class.
HSA became an independent diving and certification agency in 1986 and has been introducing and guiding disabled divers through the world of diving for the last 30+ years. HSA offers an Introduction to SCUBA diving, multiple levels of Open Water SCUBA certifications (A, B, C, and C with restrictions), Advanced certifications, and HSA Dive Buddy certifications as well.
During our extended weekend of HSA Instructor Training we learned about a variety of both physical and mental disabilities. We specifically learned about how to work with divers with PTSD, cognitive disabilities, blindness, deafness, amputation, paraplegia, and quadriplegia.
Excerpts from the HSA Instructor Training Course from the weekend of March 25-27th, 2016. Class took place at the Eastern Academy of Scuba Education facility (better known as the EASE House). Big thanks to our Course Director Philippe Yersin for putting this video together!
Our first day of class was spent learning about these disabilities, as well as their effects, the additional constraints, and some of the non-obvious considerations we should have for students dealing with disabilities.
Day two was spent in confined water. We learned and practiced skills teaching (simulated) blind, paraplegic, amputee, and quadriplegic students. We also took turns as both instructor and students. My biggest take away from my day of confined water was considerations for my students. At the end of day two we also went ahead and took our final written exam.
Our last day was spent in open water trainings. Again we practiced scenarios with (simulated) blind, paraplegic, and quadriplegic students, but the open water added a whole other degree of difficulty. At the end of day three my fellow instructors and I could feel the difference in our confidence and comfort with the idea of taking our new potential students into the water.
The HSA Instructor Training Course has prepared me to introduce the world of scuba diving to a whole new set of divers. With some forethought and logistical preparation scuba diving is accessible to just about anybody!