MORE needs to be done to promote diving for disabled in Cyprus, as well as better access to the sea and dive sites, according to supporters.
Sean Flynn, of Freedom Divers, is a professional diver and qualified as a disabled diving instructor around two years ago. “It’s fantastic to see people with disabilities in the water, the feeling of weightlessness is wonderful,” he said.
The instructor said that most people are able to dive, no matter what their disability and only a handful of medical conditions would prevent this. “We take them in the water and then put them face down to get them used to breathing using a regulator first. Then we take them down to a metre and when they are comfortable, even deeper.”
Sean is a fully qualified PADI instructor (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and also as a disabled diving instructor with DDI – Disabled Divers International.
He said that the general attitude to disabled divers in Cyprus needs to change and that when this happens, the island has the potential to become popular with disabled divers from around the globe.
“Some other dive centres in Cyprus do take disabled divers… but they say it takes them longer, they have to employ extra staff and so they charge more.”
Sean’s prices are the same for everyone, he said, noting that it would be wrong to ‘penalise’ disabled people. However, he said it can be challenging to find alternative, suitable dive sites, as access to many of them is over rocks.
“In Paphos I use Riccos beach, which is great and there is a beach wheelchair here so people can get across the sand and into the water. There are four turtles there at the moment, which is great for the divers to see. Also, one of the municipal beaches in Limassol has disabled access too.”
Last year Sarah Howard, 46, from the UK visited Cyprus and dived with Sean for the first time at a swimming pool in the villa she was holidaying in. This year she is returning for a much anticipated sea dive.
Sarah has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a progressive muscular disease. It affects all of her muscles and she is no longer able to walk, stand or lift her arms, and uses an electric wheelchair. She was introduced to Sean by the owner of wheelchair accessible, disabled friendly villa, Carpe Diem, where she was staying.
“It was my first visit to Cyprus and a pleasure to spend the day with Sean and participate in some diving with him. I require quite a bit of support under the water, due to my lack of strength, but we immediately connected and I felt extremely safe and confident with his direction and expertise,” she said.
“As my condition is progressive, I’ve had to train and refresh my training at different intervals along the way. I trained at a PADI centre in Malta, then with many dive centres in the UK, and most recently the Scuba Trust, which specialises in dive training for disabled,” she said.
She believes that Cyprus is a great destination for disabled divers as the climate is good and there are a multitude of interesting dive sites. However, she said that more accessible beaches with boardwalks onto them and changing facilities would greatly help to improve things.
“Also, some accessible boats to take wheelchair users too,” she said.
She said that for her, diving is hard work but stimulates all of her muscles, and also provides numerous psychological benefits: such as improved self-confidence and a sense of well-being.
Sean is also a firm believer in the benefits of scuba diving, particularly for the disabled, and described
The diving instructor is also running DDI- disabled diver’s international- courses, for people with disabilities and is passionate that everyone should be offered a chance to enjoy the water.
Sarah added: “I very much hope that Sean’s wish to encourage diving for the disabled is embraced by everyone in Cyprus and in time, the country becomes a key dive destination that everyone can enjoy.”