With the help of Diveheart, based in Downers Grove, Ill, people with all abilities—even those with no arms or legs—can “Imagine the Possibilities” of not only swimming, but learning to scuba dive.

The nonprofit provides SCUBA diving and snorkeling experience programs to children, veterans, and people with disabilities, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, and more.

Since 2001, this 501C3, volunteer driven charity has done everything from helping to facilitate cutting edge scuba therapy research with university medical centers across the country to launching a leading international adaptive scuba training program for scuba instructors, dive buddies, and adaptive divers, according to a media release.

Diveheart refers to people with disabilities as adaptive divers, not handicapped or disabled divers, the release adds.

“It’s not about scuba diving,” says Tinamarie Hernandez, Diveheart executive director. “Diveheart’s ultimate goal is to take the unrealized human potential that exists with individuals with disabilities and create a paradigm shift in their lives.”

“For example, we take Chris in the wheelchair and help him or her become Chris the scuba diver. Now Chris is no longer defined by his or her disability. Diveheart then helps direct adaptive divers to activities like coral reef restoration, marine biology, and oceanography, giving them focus, purpose, and helping them to feel valued while they are learning to become good stewards of the environment.”

Diveheart’s free scuba experience programs reach from coast to coast in the US and are replicated by the nonprofit’s teams as far away as Malaysia. Researchers from across the country have found that the benefits of scuba therapy and zero gravity underwater range from relief of symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain to increased focus and sense of well being in those with developmental disabilities.

Researchers have also discovered that there are big benefits in going deep since the body produces an extra output of serotonin once divers reach 66 feet underwater. However, those with developmental and physical disabilities can benefit from the very first pool session, per the release.

[Source: Diveheart]