The liberating world of scuba is now an exciting option for disabled people in the Western New York area with its first student, Tom Schofield of Burford, Ontario, a quadriplegic. After 30 years out of the water, and a few false starts to learn scuba diving, Schofield was finally able to realize his dream of training to become a diver with the help of the regional Handicapped Scuba Association Training Team, Byblos Niagara Resort & Spa and Adventure Scuba and Watersports.
"We are so excited to welcome Byblos Niagara Resort & Spa to our HSA Family. Finding indoor pool facilities for training that are accessible and affordable is a very difficult barrier to overcome. Byblos Niagara Resort & Spa has opened their doors to us and removed this barrier," said Felicia Kostecky, program director and native Western New Yorker.
The Byblos Niagara Resort & Spa program was formalized with the on-hands assistance and vision of Corey McGowan, special events director at Byblos Niagara Resort & Spa.
Kostecky, launched the regional HSA training program in August with the help of HSA International founder Jim Gatacre, who came in from California for the course, which graduated its first class of students who will act as divemasters and dive buddies to the disabled. The graduates, all from the Niagara Frontier area, are now qualified to help the disabled experience life underwater and all the fascinating discoveries there.
"These students will form the base for sharing the joys of scuba with more people who otherwise would not have access to the wonders of the underwater diving experience," said Kostecky. "It is an exhilarating experience for both the diver and their buddy."
"The demand for scuba for the disabled is strong; it brings a new world of freedom, exploration and activities that they can really enjoy," says Gatacre. "There has been considerable excitement in the region from both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border."
"It was a thrill to see Tom back in the water after 30 years and take his first breath underwater on scuba", said McGowan. Added Schofield, "If I could sum it up, I would say the experience was other worldly; it is like going back to my carefree youth - in one word: Awesome!!"
Kostecky is encouraging everyone who is interested to contact her, either directly, through Adventure Scuba & Watersports www.adventurescuba.ca, or through the regional HSA Training Team website, www.paraquadics.com.
There are over 3.6 million Canadians and over 49 million Americans with disabilities.
"There are snorkeling and skin diving opportunities for the disabled if they have limitations that prevent the full SCUBA experience," adds Kostecky. "These provide an introduction or alternative that still lets them enjoy the underwater world experience."