Standing tall in waters deep. Underwater, the disabled are free


Standing tall in waters deep

Underwater and out of their wheelchairs, these persons with disabilities are free. They can't walk but they can dive, because in the water, we're all the same. 

Everything that happens up to the magical moment when you descend into the cool waters on a dive is demanding. 

It often starts with long journeys involving planes, buses, cars and ferries. At some point you have to make a precarious transfer from one boat to another, often in choppy waters. 

When you finally reach your destination, you spend time hauling heavy tanks and gear bags, sometimes on hot sandy beaches. 

The idea that we were about to do this in Redang, Malaysia, with 34 persons with disabilities and 62 volunteers gave me pause. 

Wheelchairs can't go on sand. 

How would people with limited hand movements dive? 

How were we going to transfer from bus to ferry to boat in the first place?

Where there's a will, there's a way - an overused proverb, I know. But it couldn't be more appropriate when you witness this group in action.

The Marine Discovery Dive is an annual event that is the brainchild of EK Lim and his friends at Society of PSP (People Support People) Malaysia

The group wanted to give persons with disabilities an opportunity to experience the sea. 

Many never get this chance because it's not physically accessible, and it goes against a general perception that persons with disabilities shouldn't be undertaking such pursuits. 

Well, People Support People is busting that myth. 

Not only is this event about bringing together able-bodied people and people with disabilities to learn from and support each other, it's about showing the community of people with disabilities that they can be empowered and break through their own limitations. 

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt on this trip is that disability is not about someone's physical limitations. It's about the environment. If we work to make it accessible, persons with disabilities have an equal chance of succeeding in everything that able-bodied people do. 

The Marine Discovery Dive 2016 is open to volunteers (those who dive and those who don't) and persons with disabilities from around the world. Training is provided.Sign up here.

Produced & written by Ashima Thomas
Filmed by Anshul Tiwari 
Edited by Anshul Tiwari & Bill Kong 
Additional footage by Zhang Chao Yu

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