Diving despite handicap


Disabled people need to know they are capable of swimming and diving. It gives them self-confidence.– TIMES OF OMAN

Muscat: For the past four days people with a variety of disabilities have been putting their limitations aside and learning the basics of scuba diving. The event, organised by Tarik Al Khabori, who is setting up the Oman Disabled Divers Association, allowed people with paralysis, palsies and visual impairments to put on wet suits and oxygen tanks and swim in the pool at Marina Bandar Rowdha with the help of specialised instructors.

"Disabled people need to know they are capable of swimming and diving. It gives them self-confidence," said Gundi Friedrich, a diving instructor who is certified to train people with disabilities. Friedrich, who is Swedish by birth but lives in Austria, has been working with people with disabilities since she was 16-years-old. She said it's important for them to swim because being in water can make everyone equal. Even people who have paralysed legs can move easily in the pool, she said.

One of divers lost the use of her legs in a car accident eight years ago and went into the water for first time on Saturday. Thanks to the weightlessness under water, she was able to swim like an able-bodied person, even kicking her legs.

"She said she didn't know she could still move her legs.

"It was great!" said Friedrich.

On Tuesday the divers included visually impaired students from SQU and Omar Bin Al Khattab Institute for the Blind.  For some of them, like Khamis Al Habsi, swimming with an oxygen tank experienced independence in the water. 

The first-year student from Mudhaibi said he has tried swimming before but always needed help. With the oxygen tank he wasn't worried about sinking and could swim by himself. Now he wants to learn more about scuba diving.

"I did well swimming with oxygen. I wish I could go under the sea and touch the fish. I want to have the freedom," Al Habsi explained.

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