Deep Sea Diving in a wheelchair

wheelchair Deep Sea Diving

We cannot stand the thought of being wheelchair bound for all of our lives, but there are some special people who have been living with it, breathing with it, and existing with it. Others often refer to them as “disabled”, and all they do is, sympathize, criticize or to an extreme, make them feel as if they just don’t deserve to exist in this world.

In this blog, you will read how a woman named – Sue Austin has redefined the word ‘disability’ by using her will power and determination to live with dignity in this inclusive society. For her, disability was a way of getting some extremity, facing all the difficult situations, tapping her talents and throwing an interesting light on people. She took advantage of what everything she could do and never concentrated on the things she could not. She chose not to place ‘DIS’ in her ‘ABILITY’ and never let this come in her way to conquer the world.

It all started 16 years ago when an extended illness changed the way she could access the world. She experienced her life slipping away and getting restricted in the confines of her room. People’s reaction completely changed towards her, it was as if they couldn’t see her anymore. They saw her in terms of their assumptions of what it must be like to be in a wheelchair. People associated her with limitation, fear, pity and restriction. A part of her had become alienated from her life. She wanted to reclaim her identity back.

She started to make something that aimed in communicating joy and freedom with her best companion- her ‘wheelchair’. She started using her wheelchair to create unexpected images. Below is an image illustrating one of her playful design.

wheelchair Deep Sea Diving

Seeing interested and surprised responses from people opened new doors of perspectives for her. She understood that practice can make her identity and help transform all preconceptions and notions that people had about her. But, this was just the beginning to make her mark in history.

She began diving in the year 2005 and realized that ‘scuba gear’ extends to her range of activity in just the way her wheelchair does. She knew that people hold different responses for a scuba gear and a wheel chair. She wondered whether she could bring both of them together. In 2010, with a grant from the Arts Council England’s Impact program, she began building an underwater wheelchair for a work she called “Testing the Water.”

She started talking to people about it; engineers too gave up saying it wouldn’t work. They anticipated that a scuba diving wheelchair is not designed to go through water. But, Sue Austin was sure it would.

Certainly, this wheelchair scuba diving must have been an enriching and astounding experience of a lifetime. Deep sea wheelchair diving gave her the freedom to move in 360 degrees of space, that is indeed exhilarating.

wheelchair Deep Sea Diving

Certainly, this wheelchair scuba diving must have been an enriching and astounding experience of a lifetime. Deep sea wheelchair diving gave her the freedom to move in 360 degrees of space, that is indeed exhilarating.

wheelchair Deep Sea Diving

Today she takes pride in what she does. People no more look down upon her but often are seen commenting things like, “I want one of those.” Or, “if you can do that, I can do anything.” She has transcended the frame of reference that people held for a wheelchair.

It required months of intense physical training with the help of creative and technical team’s assistance. For filming this video, the crew headed to Egypt to record Austin exploring the Red Sea in her wheelchair. The tropical background and marine life has added a tinge of magic to it.

She has created a freedom that has spread to the rest of other people’s lives. She has taught people to focus on the abilities and not on the limitations. A single vehicle has transformed her life. This underwater wheelchair has literally pushed her into a new way of being, into new dimensions and into a whole new level of consciousness.

wheelchair Deep Sea Diving

She has won the Natalie Sitar Prize for outstanding achievement, as well as the Holton Lee International Disability Arts Open in 2008. We wonder where this wheelchair will take her in the coming years.

2 comments… add one

  • Sharen March 27, 2014, 3:10 pm

    I wish I had known about this when my husband was still alive. I would have found a way for him to experience this!!!!!!

  • Lionel April 12, 2013, 10:55 am

    I want one of those :D

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