Scuba Diving Programme In KK Opens Underwater Experience For Wheelchair Users
Non-profit organisation Diveheart recently held a scuba diving programme for people with disabilities for the first time in Sabah
Taking place at Mamutik Island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu from 3 to 5 September, the three-day Diveheart Adaptive programme saw over 40 volunteers, dive crew, and medical personnel come together to bring five wheelchair users on their first discovery dives.
According to The Borneo Post, among the participants were 26-year-old Nurizzati Zahidah Hasanudin, 29-year-old Lidwina Isidore Andilah, and 39-year-old Iziani Hayati Abbas, who each needed the assistance of four to five trained volunteers to make their dives possible.
One of the participants, Iziani, who has been a wheelchair user her whole life, never thought she would ever be scuba diving
Diagnosed with spina bifida at birth, the 39-year-old said the whole experience was not only educational, but more so, emotional.
When she was in the water, she felt like she was just like any other person, without any disability.
"I did not expect to be able to do this, because when I first tried to get into the sea on the first day, I got scared and had to be brought back to the shore.
"But [on the second day], I made it about 3m down and saw some fish. It is beautiful and a whole new world opened up for me when I was diving," she said.
For 29-year-old Lidwina, she has always wanted to scuba dive, but did not know anywhere that could cater to her condition
Paralysed from the waist down due to a fall when she was five, the archery para-athlete was thankful to find Diveheart, saying, "For others like me out there, don't be afraid to try new things because we can do what others can do too. We just need more help getting there."
Meanwhile, 26-year-old Nurizzati hopes that more people with disabilities will have similar opportunities as they had.
"I always thought that such activities were only possible for [non-disabled] individuals," she said, adding that she is grateful for the Diveheart organisation, doctors, hospitals, sponsors, and dive centre, Borneo Divers, for making it happen.
Diveheart was founded by Chicago-based president Jim Elliot to help people with disabilities build confidence and self-esteem through zero gravity and scuba therapy
"They (the participants) spend their entire day in a wheelchair. It excites me the most to see these individuals standing up in the water for the first time," New Straits Times quoted him as saying.
"It helps individuals self-identify, not as someone with a disability, but as a diver who influences people around them," he explained.
The diving programme was brought to Malaysia in 2015, where it has now trained over 157 people with disabilities to dive, and 200 volunteers from dive centres, universities, and hospitals nationwide to conduct these adaptive dives.
Collaborating with Universiti Malaysia Medical Centre (UMMC), Diveheart has also held similar programmes for other people with limited mobility, autism, and Down syndrome, enabling them to enjoy an underwater experience with qualified trainers and medical personnel.
Last month, a woman in Pahang stood up for the first time in two years after she was fitted with a free prosthetic leg: