An estimated 6 million people are active scuba divers, and thanks to organizations like Diveheart, a growing percentage of those divers are people with disabilities. “We have more experience than any other organization in the world in areas of adaptive scuba therapy,” says Jim Elliott, founder and president. And, in fact, the shop he built is a worldwide leader in adaptive scuba training and therapy, having trained thousands of people with disabilities, adaptive scuba instructors and buddy-divers.
Perhaps the group’s success is due to its philosophy that adaptive training should be no different than what others receive through nationally recognized training agencies. “Diveheart instructors have specialized knowledge, training and experience to teach people with all types of abilities,” says Elliott. “This qualifies them to assess specific needs for assistance with scuba-related activities and how to address those needs.” He adds, “Diveheart instructors also teach disabled divers to perform their own ‘scuba needs assessments’ to identify the degree to which they may require assistance. The goal is to build a relationship where disabled divers are comfortable working with their instructors and adaptive dive team members.”
Diveheart Makes it Easy
Taking the plunge to learn scuba diving requires adaptation to an entirely different environment than being on good ol’ terra firma. Freed from the confines of gravity, it opens up a three-dimensional, weightless environment underwater.
Bill Bogdon took the plunge in 1991, 21 years after he became a paraplegic as an infant. “Scuba diving is a great equalizer,” he says. It brings “a euphoric feeling like you’re on top of the world.” His scuba diving adventures have taken him to places like Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, the Bahamas (where he did shark dives) and Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri. In 2006, while attending a scuba diving show in Chicago, he met Jim Elliott and learned about Diveheart. Today, he sits on the organization’s board.
“Diveheart made it so easy for me to try scuba diving,” says Chris Block, a 32-year-old engineer paralyzed in 2017. “They were great, and scuba diving is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.” Not long after his initial dive experience, Block learned about a Diveheart Cozumel trip, and once again experienced Diveheart’s support. “They helped me raise the funds to travel to Cozumel where I saw so many of the things underwater that I fantasized I might see.”
Diveheart hosts a plethora of activities, taking place from Cozumel, Mexico, to Key West, Florida. To find out how to get involved, go to diveheart.org or call 630/964-1983.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where can I find additional information about Diveheart?
A. A good place to start is the Diveheart website at diveheart.org. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you would like to speak directly to Diveheart, call them at 630/964-1983.
Q. How much does a Diveheart Scuba Experience (try scuba) cost?
A. Normally, Diveheart Scuba Experiences (try scuba) are free of charge. Contact Diveheart at 630/964-1983 for more information.
Q. How much does a Diveheart Adaptive Diver course cost?
A. There are many variables involved in taking an actual certification course, so it’s important to work with your Diveheart Instructor to determine the actual cost of certification training.
Q. What course components make up a scuba course?
A. Scuba training is made up of three general components — academic development (often conducted as online independent study), pool/confined water training (this is where you master the skills of scuba training) and open water dives (this is where you demonstrate your ability to use the skills learned in the pool/confined water in an actual dive setting, which could be the ocean, a lake, a quarry or any body of water that represents open water conditions), all of which require successful completion in order to earn a scuba certification.
Q. Do I have to purchase my own dive equipment for my training?
A. The sooner you own your dive equipment, the sooner you’ll start to feel even more comfortable on your dives as you become more familiar with your own gear. Dive centers often require students to purchase a mask, fins and a snorkel for training, while the rest of your gear is either provided as part of your course costs or can be rented to complete the training. For divers with SCI, the fins would not be required, but you may want to consider swimming mitts if you have use of your arms and hands.
Q. How much does scuba equipment cost?
A. Like the cost of scuba training, there are many variables associated with purchasing scuba equipment, including styles, features, adaptations, etc., and there is a range of prices available. If maintained properly, though, scuba equipment can last a lifetime. Diveheart will help disabled divers to find creative ways to help fund their training, equipment and travel needs. This might include jointly fund raising, finding possible scholarships and setting up “fund me” sites, all of which can help to lessen the actual costs associated with learning to scuba dive.
Q. Will I be required to get my physician’s approval to scuba dive?
A. Yes. All scuba students are required to complete a medical history form supplied by their instructor. You’ll then take that form to your physician who will evaluate your individual medical history to determine if there are any medical concerns that would prevent you from safely diving. There are many resources available to help your physician make an informed decision.
Diveheart is a great resource, but it’s not the only adaptive scuba organization in the sea. Following are two more well-respected programs to help you get suited up and wet:
Adaptive Adventures offers scuba programs in both its Colorado and Midwest locations and has sponsored trips to Florida, Mexico and Honduras. To get started, inquire about its “Discover SCUBA Diving” experience, where participants are offered the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying underwater with the potential to continue on to achieve scuba certification. For more information, contact Matt Feeney, Adaptive Adventures’ scuba manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303/679-2770. The organization’s website is adaptiveadventures.org.
Beginning as a research project at the University of California-Irvine in 1975, the Handicapped Scuba Association’s training programs for people with disabilities utilize teaching techniques developed from more than 30 years of continuous research and feedback. The group runs 10 training centers worldwide, including one in New Jersey and one in far-flung South Africa, and classes teach everything from basic diving skills to instructor training courses. Go to hsascuba.com for more information or look up the group on Facebook.