Aside from addressing the challenges inherent in teaching those with disabilities, taking the Disabled Divers International (DDI) course after working as a dive instructor for a few years was a way to expand my knowledge and broaden my teaching abilities in general.
Launched in 2010, DDI is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote diving for disabled people as an activity that can help overcome fear and exclusion from society, as well as help those who may have difficulty socializing.
Just like any other diving organization, DDI has a list of affiliated members and dive centers, and several levels of certification. The programs are designed to work in conjunction with existing programs from other diving organizations. The diver could choose to be certified as an entry-level diver with DDI and also with PADI/SSI/NAUI to mention a few, as long as the student can accomplish what is required for each certification. As for dive pros, it’s very easy to add on a DDI instructor course if you’re already certified as an instructor from another organization; the crossover will only take a couple of days.
What will an instructor learn?
The educational material developed by Disabled Divers International provides support and information in order to deliver a safe and enjoyable diving experience for students faced with physical challenges. As mentioned above, the DDI website features a list of affiliated dive centers, as well as those that offer professional training for instructors.
As a dive professional, this was a completely different sensory experience compared to the diving I knew. My fellow classmates and I took turns at diving with a blacked-out mask or without using our legs. I had to rethink the way I do things, my position in the water, and my communication style, and try to work out things that I usually take for granted. I also found myself thinking about new ways to encourage people to dive and how to help them achieve diving skills.
As an instructor it might also be a challenge, after years of teaching the same courses, to learn entirely new ways to teach. Taking a DDI crossover course may enable you to offer diving to a wider audience, and may help you when it comes to teaching your regular classes too. This video shows an open water dive on Gili Air at Oceans 5, where I did the training, with a trained DDI instructor and a diver who has muscular dystrophy.
Whether or not you intend to teach students with disabilities, the training will no doubt make you a better instructor and, on the flip side, if there’s someone in your life with a disability, and they’re interested in diving, this may be just the ticket.