FROM wheelchair to the water, disabled divers take a brave plunge into the swimming pool of PJ Palms Sports Centre.
Practising for their fourth OKU Marine Discovery Dive 2015 in Redang Island this coming Aug 20 to 23, members of the Special People Association Teluk Intan Perak (SPATI) and Society of People Support People Selangor (PSP) will prove that swimming was made for all.
Polio survivor and active swimmer for the past year Tan Geok Kian, 49, did not allow her limping legs to hold her back from finding liberation in swimming.
“I joined the last diving expedition in Tioman and I was so excited. The volunteers were really friendly and did not give any disapproving look.
“These volunteers were always smiling even though they did not get a chance to swim,” said Tan, adding that she goes swimming thrice a week.
OKU Marine Discovery Dive 2015 ambassador and diver Ras Adiba Radzi admitted that although scuba diving was more challenging for disabled folk, it was still an important and fulfilling experience.
“The sea does not discriminate, people on the ground do. The fish do not care if my legs are not moving,” she said.
Having been disabled since 2002, Ras Adiba said she found courage to swim again for the past two years with the support of her husband and diving instructor Ilias Yaakop.
“Those with unique bodies need more help and support, especially when we are in the water.
“We will need at least two volunteers and a diving instructor underwater to support and lift us,” she said, adding that more OKUs should consider getting certified with a diver’s licence.
Sharing similar sentiments, SPATI president Kennedy Hong said the expedition aided many spinal injury victims to regain their confidence and assimilating into society.
“Most of us do not have the opportunity to see the sea or go snorkelling.
“This programme is a great way of including us as part of the community,” he said.
Catering to the disabled community, PJ Palm Sports Centre general manager E.J. Yeap said the centre offered special rates for OKU swimmers and disabled-friendly pool facilities.
Organising chairman Ling Wang Ming said last year’s expedition, held in Tioman Island, got them into the Malaysia Book of Records for the most number of disabled participants in a scuba diving expedition.
“This year is our fourth expedition and we already have six international participants from Hong Kong, Guang Zhou and Taiwan.
“We are expecting 30 participants locally, 50 volunteers and 20 diving instructors to join us this time,” he said.
Ling added that all eager participants aged 16 and above must fulfil the minimum criteria.
“They must attend at least three of the weekly swimming lessons at PJ Palms Sports Centre to ensure they have the basic swimming technique, from now till the week before Aug 20.
“All participants must also have a doctor’s letter to certify their fitness and health condition,” he said adding that the fee is RM800 per participant including food, accommodation and ferry transfer.
Currently seeking sponsorship and volunteers, the society welcomes all disabled people to join the dive by registering before July 15.
For details, visit, www.sopsp.org