Malaysia is home to the Marine Discovery Dive event held annually. It was founded by the Chairman of the Society of People Support People in Malaysia, E.K. Lim. The program allows wheelchair users to experience movement underwater during a scuba diving expedition. The exciting event provides wheelchair users the opportunity to go beyond their boundaries and feel truly free. The Marine Discovery Dive is open to individuals located around the world with disabilities.
Wheelchair users and others with disabilities are encouraged to sign up for the program. Individual participants have a variety of disabilities and begin training twice per week for about two to three hours. Training for a full six months prior to participating in the event is required.
The experienced diving volunteers assist the wheelchair user by guiding them throughout the expedition. One of the scuba instructors holds the hand of the participant to guide them through the expedition while the other holds the scuba tank and the weight of the person level and equal to the instructors. Together they all swim together as they explore the sea and marine life. Safety measures and regulations are adhered to at all times during the expedition. All participants and volunteers wear authorized scuba gear for safety during the experience.
Even when safety is obvious, most participants have exhibited panic when first entering the water. This is a normal reaction since most participants have limited mobility and can’t stand up. However, the experienced instructors explain that everyone underwater is the same because nobody can stand. Participants often feel assured because everyone has the same limitation underwater.
Almost all participants get over their initial fear by persevering and trusting their instructors. During the event, participants find they are able to combat fears and obstacles and feel free underwater. It allows them to go to a place they never thought possible. Life on land might be challenging for those with mobility issues. However, underwater it is a different story.
The Marine Discovery Dive attracts more participants every year. In 2014, the event was mentioned in the Malaysia Book of Records for most disabled participants in a scuba diving expedition. Participants every year are sharing their experience with their friends and family.
Ras Adiba Radzi, who is paralyzed from the waist down, attended last year’s expedition. Following her experience, she told her disabled friends of the expedition and they just gawked at her in shock. She said the term “the sky is the limit” quickly turned into “the sea is the limit.” She went further to explain in an interview with the Singapore International Foundation that when you are underwater, the sea does not discriminate. It was one of the most freeing experiences of her life.
The more this event is shared with friends and those in the disabled community, the more it attracts participants who are seeking freedom underwater. The founder is interested in making the event as popular as possible by encouraging participants to sign up every year. It is important to plan ahead since there are six months of training involved prior to the annual event.