As a diver, Scuba World's commission – to spend a week in the Red Sea – was freelance heaven. The real pleasure, however, was the company of the Scuba Trust divers, among whom was a young Danny Crates, then an instructor and rescue diver, but who went on to become a paralympic champion.
After diving with the Scuba Trust, which makes affordable training accessible to people with disabilities, I now know that there is simply no such thing as disabled diving. Yes, there are divers with disabilities for whom the 'scuba morphosis' from awkwardness on land to liberation in the water is more than usually marked, but it is the people who are disabled not their diving: once they've learnt to match their abilities to the demands of the sport, they're divers. No more, no less.
Of course, this important distinction between general disability and specific ability should really be obvious to anyone with the nouse to tell one end of a dive knife from another, yet even the best intentioned of able-bodied people hobble themselves with preconceptions and believe that it takes four functioning limbs and five senses to make one complete diver. A week in the water with Scuba Trust divers at Aqua Sport's Red Sea operation in Taba, however, made it clear that the candour and humour with which many of the divers talk about themselves, each other, and the practicalities of their own particular approaches to diving, reduces seemingly insurmountable problems to mere difficulties, and mere difficulties simply weren't mentioned.
I don't know why I expected it to be otherwise, but I did – and so, in the first few days, did the fresh-faced staff at Taba. With the notably laid-back exception of Zohar, the IAHD (Internation Association for Handicapped Divers) instructor who successfully eased the group's Open Water students through their tests, the instructors and dive masters bristled with a willingness to meet every difficulty in this novel situation. They'd prepared for the arrival of the group by studiously trying to anticipate all the problems that might arise, but the Scuba Trust divers' self-reliance often left them hovering, convinced that there must be something more that they should be doing!
For those of us without disabilities, one fo the hardest things to learn is to do nothing while being prepared to do anything if we were asked. We sussed it out in the end, and while I perfected my crown cork action by fetching drinks from the dive boat's fridge, the Aqua Sport team made themselves available when the need for help arose, but otherwise simply got on with the business of guiding the diving...
The candour and humour of the divers reduces seemingly insurmountable problems to mere difficulties, and mere difficulties simply weren't mentioned