All barriers are in the mind… Deptherapy and RAID to transform scuba diving training for ALL abilities


Triple amputee and Rescue Diver Josh Boggi. Photo - Dmitry Knyazev

Following a presentation at the GO Diving Show in Coventry, UK last weekend, Scuba Diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy has announced that it is working on a series of exciting new programmes with diver training agency partner RAID. These new programmes are destined to transform scuba diving training for all abilities.

Award-winning Deptherapy is the acknowledged world leader in Adaptive Teaching – training those with life changing mental and/or physical challenges through specially designed scuba diving programmes that enable divers to achieve standard agency certifications. Many of Deptherapy’s programme members have suffered limb loss and other significant physical injuries. 80% of members are suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder or other chronic mental illness.

Deptherapy – changing and saving lives through scuba diving. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

Sadly, people with all kinds of disability are still actively discriminated against inside and outside the scuba diving industry. However, the work of Deptherapy has shown that even those with massive injuries can still meet all the standards required to become main agency qualified divers without the stigma of ‘disability’ being shown on their certification card.

Successful Adaptive Teaching requires considerable additional effort from the instructional team, working very closely with the student, to think ‘out of the box’ so that the individual can achieve the required standard.

Until now, the majority of Deptherapy programme members have been UK Armed Forces veterans but the charity has long been a champion of the cause to make scuba diving accessible to all those with disabilities.

Deptherapy Programme Members undertaking open water training at Roots Red Sea. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

Moving forwards with RAID, Deptherapy and its training arm Deptherapy Education are now working towards extending their programme to push the boundaries of Adaptive Teaching for a wider cohort, as well as offering an alternative for those with disabilities or medical conditions that mean standard certifications are unachievable.

Richard Cullen, Chair of Deptherapy explains: “The Deptherapy Team is realistic, and we know from experience that some divers will not be able to achieve the standard certifications, even with Adaptive Teaching, due to the nature of their illness or injury. For instance, a quad amputee or a quadriplegic cannot complete all the skills required but they can still dive on a limited certification, providing they do so with the support of a qualified team trained to support a diver with extreme levels of disability.”

“In partnership with RAID we are working on a new model of both Adaptive Teaching, but also we want to provide limited certifications similar to the old D1- D3 levels for those divers who are unable to meet required standards.”

“Under the new model, specially trained dive professionals will carry out an exhaustive assessment of every potential diver to determine their possibility to achieve mainstream certifications before continuing on either programme.”

Deptherapy Programme Members taking part in Rescue Diver training. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

A new training programme for dive professionals is being finalised to facilitate the new teaching models. The new Deptherapy / RAID course for Instructors and Divemasters will prepare trainers to teach adaptively, to understand disability, to make realistic assessments and, most importantly, to support their student through the challenges of becoming a diver. The diver training programmes will then be available through RAID dive centres worldwide.

Paul Toomer, Director of Diver Training at RAID, says: “Deptherapy is unique in its vast experience of working with divers with all types of challenges. The diving world does discriminate against those with disabilities and the easy way has been to qualify them as ‘disabled divers’. We want to see a new approach, one that firstly looks at how a student could reach mainstream certification by adapting skills. If that is not achievable, then we will work to qualify them under the D1-D3 system. We are bringing together professionals from the RAID community worldwide to work on this major project.”

Richard Cullen adds: “It is humbling that Paul has asked Deptherapy to lead this project and for me, as an individual, to head the team. It is an endorsement of the years of hard work that Team Deptherapy have put in to ensure we can better the lives of Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges.”

“I know that together with RAID, Deptherapy can make that same impact on disabled individuals and communities worldwide. I want to thank Paul and RAID for having the confidence in us, as a team, and me personally to deliver this major programme. This will change views and working practices globally.”

Deptherapy and RAID plan to run a pilot Dive Professionals course in Autumn 2020 with the remainder of the training courses rolling out from January 2021.

For more information about Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education visit

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