Scuba Diving With Disabilities

By Julius
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Happy diver during discover scuba event

Scuba diving is a phantastic sport and millions of people around enjoy doing it.

However, if you have a handicap or know someone who does and still want to explore the underwater world, your might ask:

Can I go scuba diving with disabilities?

Find out the answer below, as well as the potential health benefits of scuba diving.

Can disabled people go scuba diving?

Even disabled people with severe physical or cognitive limitations can enjoy scuba diving with the help of special diving courses, guides, dive buddies, and training. Underwater their movements are less restricted than on land, and the experience and sensations of diving will be unforgettable.

No matter what type of disability, there is a very very high chance that you can become a diver.

Scuba diving with disabilities is growing as more and more people notice the short- and long-term benefits of it for both their mental and physical health.

This includes nearly any type of physical limitations, and even after the loss of limbs, as well as cognitive and emotional ones with the help of a trainer.

Scuba diver hovering on back
Almost everyone can enjoy the underwater world and scuba dive!

As a matter of fact, some disabled people are exceptionally good divers since they are able to lay in the water motionless and achieve great buoyancy.

Benefits of scuba diving for disabled people

Scuba diving allows disabled people to experience new sensations underwater. While on land they might be tight to a wheelchair or other support device, they can float effortlessly on a scuba dive. Additionally, they can share the same joy for the underwater world as everyone else.

These are some of the benefits disabled divers report from their scuba diving experience:

  • Joy
  • Less-restricted movement
  • Confidence
  • Equality with non-disabled people
  • Self-esteem
  • Ease of mind
  • Relief from anxiety, stress & pain
  • Sense of achievement
  • Connection to others

Many disabled divers I have spoken to share the same feeling about scuba diving: It’s one of the best things they ever started!

This is also supported by research on the topic, which suggests that scuba diving can increase the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Wheelchair at beach
Time to leave the wheelchair behind and start diving!

First off, pretty much everyone loves to see cool marine animals underwater, and a disability does not change that of course.

Floating effortlessly and weightlessly during a dive is a great opportunity for people that are usually bound to wheelchairs or other support devices on land.

Sometimes by themselves, and sometimes with the help of a trained guide or dive buddy, they are able to move around similar to every other diver.

And we all know that you can do pretty cool movements underwater!

Scuba diving instructor surfing his fins underwater
Underwater our movements are not restricted.

Scuba diving is also a super fun team sport and a great way to meet other handicapped divers in similar situations. Plus, all divers loves to talk diving, no matter their condition.

And remember:

Underwater, we’re all just guests.

Scuba diving courses for disabled people

While people with minor disabilities may be able to join a normal scuba diving course, there are special training programs for more severely disabled divers. They range from those who need support on land only, to divers who need constant supervision both on land and underwater.

There are scuba diving courses for people with disabilities at different levels.

Usually, they are divided into different levels depending on the degree of disability.

For example, IAHD (International Association for Handicapped Divers) uses 4 levels for their courses, however, other organizations have similar structures.

Level 1 – Fully able to scuba dive

The diver fulfills all theory and practical requirements to dive and is also able to help themselves AND their dive buddy in emergency situations.

Level 2

The diver fulfills certain theory and practical requirements to dive.

They are able to help themselves in emergency situations, but not their dive buddy.

Level 3

The diver fulfills certain theory and practical requirements to dive, however, they may differ from those above.

They are not self-sufficient underwater, meaning neither able to help themselves nor their dive buddy.

Level 4

The diver mostly fulfills some theory and practical requirements to dive, and can handle scuba gear. However, they are not self-sufficient underwater and must be accompanied by a trained professional.

These divers are only allowed to dive in controlled confined water or swimming pools.

Which diving course to choose when you’re disabled

Please consult with your doctor and a trained professional scuba instructor about what courses you may take. You know your condition best, so you probably already have an idea on what could be a good fit. Always ensure the dive school is certified in working with disabled divers and accredited by a diving organization.

Can I dive with my handicapped partner?

Yes, you can dive with a handicapped partner with the help of special training, extra support buddies, and professional instructors. Depending on the type and degree of disability, you and your partner might have to take extra steps and precautions, but then you are ready to scuba dive together.

Scuba diving is an amazing opportunity for you and your disabled partner to enjoy a sport together which you can both excel at.

It’s important that you take special training to support your partner as a dive buddy, or simply join their scuba diving course.

You will learn:

  • The basics of scuba diving
  • Scuba diving with disabilities
  • How to help your partner into their scuba gear
  • Legal regulations on handicapped diving
  • Advice on booking a suitable dive trip
  • Techniques to support your partner underwater
Scuba divers making heart with their hands underwater
Scuba diving is a great opportunity for couples with handicaps to do a sport together.

Training Organizations for Handicapped Scuba Divers

IAHD – International Association for Handicapped Divers

Founded in 1993 in Sweden, IAHD is one of the most recognized organizations for disabled diving. It’s especially popular in Europe and their course structure is great for all kinds of divers with disabilities.

Visit their website:

DDI – Disabled Divers International

DDI is a not-for-profit organization, with the aim to promote, develop and conduct disabled scuba diving training programs for professional and non-professional students.

Visit their website:

HSA – Handicapped Scuba Association

HSA is among the oldest scuba associations for handicapped divers and was founded in 1975 as a research program. While they are not nearly as popular as some others on this list, they can be found across the world and offer courses, guides, and more.

Visit their website:

CMAS – Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques

CMAS is one of the oldest scuba organisations in the world and among the very best of them. They are not specialised in handicapped diving only, but have an extensive course curriculum and there are many CMAS clubs in the world.

Visit their website:


This concludes this overview of scuba diving with disabilities.

If you have a disability and want to go scuba diving, or know someone who does, I hope this encourages you to try it out.

Scuba diving with disabilities has come a long way in recent years and you can find many diving courses, and diving opportunities even with severe physical or cognitive limitations.

If you have questions or suggestions for other disabled divers, leave them in the comments!

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃



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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

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