How A Malaysian Initiative Is Giving The Disabled A Chance At Scuba Diving

In the water, we're all the same.

Cover image via Our Better World

Have you ever wondered if a disabled person can try out water activities?

Image via TED

Boats and beaches are generally not very disabled-friendly, especially for the ones who are wheelchair-bound.

Thus, many who have special needs are unfortunately denied the fun and unique experience of water activities as it can be a challenging task, especially without relevant equipment and help.

It's even more difficult for scuba diving activities, as the divers need to be strapped with heavy tanks and gears.

So, what does it take for a person with special needs to enjoy the experience of sea activities?

The answer is quite simple: Join the Marine Discovery Dive event.

In comes the revolutionary Marine Discovery Dive, an international event organised by Malaysians and held at different states every year.

The event aims to offer people with special needs to experience the freedom of movement underwater through the scuba diving expedition.

The annual event, now in its fifth year, was initiated by E.K. Lim, the chairman of Malaysia's Society of People Support People, a humanitarian organisation that strives to help underprivileged people.

"It's about showing the community of people with disabilities that they can be empowered and break through their own limitations."

According to Our Better World, a digital storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF), the event is about bringing together both able-bodied and people with disabilities, for them to learn and support each other.

The Marine Discovery Dive event has received a great deal of positive reception since it was first started in 2011. It even made it into the Malaysia Book of Records in 2014 for the most number of participants (29 individuals) with a disability in a scuba diving expedition.

A video produced by Our Better World, revealed how past participants have come forward to share about how their hesitations and fear of being underwater were diminished over time, thanks to persistence and courage

Sharon Lim, one of the divers, was initially very scared she was the only one that cannot stand in the water.

"Three metres only. Everyone can stand, but I cannot," she explained.

The miracle came in the form of the instructor who cheered her on and kept encouraging her to overcome her fears.

"My instructor told me: 'Do you know, Sharon, everyone in the sea, actually is the same? We are all the same because we cannot stand."

"The good thing is, when you are underwater, the sea does not discriminate," said Ras Adiba Radz, a newscaster for local television network NTV7.

The prominent figure in the Malaysian media industry, too shared her experience of diving in the video by Our Better World.

"When I told my disabled friends about my scuba diving experience, they just gawked," revealed Ras Adiba, adding that she saw many 'Nemos' when diving.

"The marine life doesn't care whether you have limbs or whether you are a paraplegic or tetraplegic. They don't care whether you can speak or not, because you use sign language underwater anyway."

"I always tell my friends, 'Oh, the sky is the limit' but when I went underwater, I was like, 'Hey, the sea is the limit!'."

To ensure that all participants and volunteers are well prepared for the expedition, everyone will have to go through a series of training

The Marine Discovery Dive works as a complete package, as they even provide a series of training to ensure that all participants and volunteers are well prepared for the expedition.

They are required to go through three sessions of swimming classes that will be held within the span of two months, with four classes for each session.

This year, the Marine Discovery Dive 2016 will be held at Mabul Island, Sabah for four days, from 28 July to 1 August.

The event organisers are currently looking for volunteers (the event welcomes both divers and non-divers) and participants with disabilities from around the world. For more details and registration, head over to Society of People Support People's Facebook page here.

Watch the video by Our Better World about the Marine Discovery Dive here:

These Malaysians didn't let their physical limitations stop them from achieving their own dreams:

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