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Diving into the deep end with adaptive scuba

Posted at 6:30 AM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 07:02:03-04

There's a class in Western New York that's helping people with disabilities find a new sense of freedom. 

It's called adaptive scuba.

"If it's something you've always wanted to do, just like Joe blow walking down the street, why not?" Carole Anderson, a certified scuba instructor, said. 

And it's something Todd Vaarwerk knew he wanted to keep doing ever since he tried adaptive scuba last year.

"I've always had a good thing with swimming, so this is the next thing to do," Vaarwerk said.

At age two, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  By college, he was using a wheelchair.

"This isn't a 'You're crazy for doing it!' This is a completely different reaction: 'Wait, you can do scuba?' " Vaarwerk added.  Between 2.7-3.5 million Americans scuba every year, worldwide that number doubles to 6 million.

Anderson started adaptive scuba classes a number of years ago after a customer came into her Lackawanna store asking if she offered classes.

"If you wanna go under water and your doc says it's good and you wanna do it, then common, I'll do everything I can to help make sure that that happens," Anderson said.  She continued, "Gravity doesn't exist the same down there and a lot of issues that folks have up here, disappear.  It's a wonderful medium."

Anderson and her husband are among a handful of people in WNY to offer adaptive scuba. They've worked with dozens of individuals with disabilities ranging from veterans with spinal cord injuries to those with MS, sight and hearing loss.

"I believe in this. I know it works. I've seen it work," said Anderson.

For Vaarwerk scuba simply means: "It's freedom...it's freedom. You'd be amazed how often you do that on a day-to-day basis and miss that level of control. I only have that control when I'm in the water."

After an hour session in the pool, he's exhausted, but urges everyone and anyone to try scuba.

"For those people sitting at home, I say if I can do it, you can do it and all I'm asking you to do is try."

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