March 4, 2018 7:49 pm
Updated: March 7, 2018 6:14 pm

People with disabilities face fears by attempting scuba diving

WATCH ABOVE: A group of people with disabilities faced their fears on Sunday by taking part in a scuba diving event in Edmonton. As Kim Smith explains, organizers hope the event breaks down barriers.

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A group of eight people with disabilities took to Edmonton’s Scona Pool Sunday morning to try scuba diving.

The last time a similar event was held in the city was about two years ago.

“We’ve been trying to get it going, but people don’t know that we can do it,” said Ken Holliday of Northwest Scuba. “We want to get the word out that we can take people with disabilities for a dive.

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“A lot of people say ‘No, they can’t do this,’ and I hate the word ‘no.'”

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Bean Gill, one of the first-time divers, was paralyzed in July of 2012 by an apparent virus. Gill said she has a fear of swimming.

“I constantly like to push myself out of my comfort zone, and this is way out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“I’ve had a few near-drowning experiences as a child so just that fear of the water filling your lungs and that feeling, that’s what I’m most afraid of.”

Each diver with a disability had at least one instructor assisting them. Northwest Scuba also had a full face mask for people who have difficulty holding a regulator in their mouth.

“Some people don’t have the mobility. But the weightlessness that they get when they get into the water is incredible,” Holliday said.

The event was organized in partnership with the Paralympic Sports Association. Program coordinator Amy Hayward said it’s difficult to get people who want to try it.

“I think people look at scuba diving as a sport that you have to be able-bodied to do, because there’s so much to go into it,” Hayward said. “It was awesome to see people come out today and maybe get over a fear that they have.”

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Wade Burke, who’s paralyzed from the chest down, was another one of the first-time divers. He said the feeling of weightlessness was liberating.

“Once you get under there you can do somersaults. You can turn on your side,” Burke said.

“Down there everything is a lot easier and you have a lot more power with your arms.”

After a couple of hours in the water, Gill said she was feeling more at ease in the water.

“By the end, I was down at the bottom of the dive pool. [I] kind of felt like a fish a little bit. Definitely felt way more comfortable,” Gill said.

Northwest Scuba is the first training facility in Canada for Disabled Divers International.

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