Hi my name is Julie and I’m a diver. I am a full time wheelchair user and have been scuba diving since 1987. I always loved the water. So, when I met the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) people and they told me that with proper training, I could scuba dive, I was just fascinated and very excited at the idea. I went on a trip to the Cayman Islands to try it. And from that moment on, I was hooked.
Scuba diving is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun, it’s really good exercise, and it has been very therapeutic for me. After a day of diving, I feel so relaxed and like I’ve done something really good for myself. I’ve made so many friends because we’re doing something we love to do. I even got my family interested. My husband is certified and my kids want to dive when they’re old enough. Whether you’re with friends or family, you get out of the water, sit on the boat and you just talk about all the stuff you saw.
Being underwater is just like being in another world. You’re floating along and swimming and free to explore and go all these places. You see all these things that you don’t normally see, like the wildlife and fish. I used to be afraid of what was down there, but once I saw that there was really nothing to be afraid of, it became much more enjoyable and easier for me also. Diving is largely mental and if you’re not afraid, you can control yourself mentally underwater. Then the physical part follows, whether you need help or not because you can always get somebody to help you. Like the most limited person I ever saw dive was a very high level quadriplegic and he had two dive buddies who would go with him.
The thing to remember is that it’s just like anything else. It can be difficult at first because you need to work at it and practice. I wanted to be just like this friend of mine who was free and graceful underwater. So, I kept practicing and practicing and, sure enough, I was diving freely, controlling my buoyancy and going everywhere I wanted to go underwater. I’ve also been able to visit many places above the water. I’ve dove all over the world, in Egypt, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. I’ve learned a lot, about different cultures, people and oceans of the world. I’ve also seen that a lot of places are pretty accessible. Some aren’t, but you work with that and plan ahead. But nowadays, a lot of places realize how many disabled people do dive and go out of their way to accommodate everyone.
This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.