Adaptive Equipment Review

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Adaptive Equipment Review

Adapt your Diver

Quite often, especially during our Pro courses, we get asked about specific equipment modifications.  It is safe to say that our Pro students know the differences between a wing or jacket BCD or the differences between one lens or two lens masks, but what about equipment that best adapts to the physical or mentally disabled?

In our training manuals and during our courses we talk about modifications and differences in equipment however we thought we would bring the knowledge to a more wider audience.  This article is based upon personal opinions and experiences. Whether you are a Pro or a recreational diver, here is a few things to consider when it comes to specialised equipment.

For the Paraplegic Diver

Every disability is different, the injury is different and therefore the equipment is personal to each individual.  For the Paraplegic diver, one of the most useful pieces of equipment for the majority of spinal injury divers is webbed gloves.  Webbed gloves help the diver propel through the water, designed to increase water resistance and to create drag.  As well as being used by disabled divers, webbed gloves are also used by surfers and swimmers alike.  Due to the extra force that is exerted on the swimmer/diver/surfer, webbed gloves are fantastic for strength and endurance training.  The extra effort needed to counteract the resistance created by the gloves helps build strength, giving the upper body, shoulders and arms a good workout.

Best I’ve used in my years as a dive pro  {Mark Slingo DDI Instructor Trainer Examiner and DDI Boardmember} 


Darkfin is a company that designs different type of performance gloves for different sports.  Due to their specialty and niche in the market you can find up to 12 different hand sizes so having ill fitted webbed gloves is no excuse with these guys! If global sustainability hits a bit of a sore spot with you then you will love this brand.  Darkfin gloves are made out of plant based materials and are 100%biodegradable so if you like to support sustainable companies then Darkfin may be the retailer for you. If you are not too concerned with brand name, you can find webbed gloves off of ebay for a slither of the price and the same quality dexterity than in other gloves.

Another avenue to venture into are diver propulsion devices (DPV). DPV’s create the greatest range in terms of underwater distances. Although DPV’s are designed to stay neutrally buoyant, sometimes it can be hard to control once stopped, because of this, make sure you have adequate training. DPV’s, or more so forms of DPV’s have been used by the armed forces during WW||. Frogmen used to have many ways for underwater transportation; including manned torpedoes and motorized submersible canoes! DPV’s are more on the expensive side of life, so failing that, pick dive sites that suit your divers level and abilities.


For the Amputee diver

Equipment adaptations for the amputee diver are simpler in the idea that you already have alot of the equipment you need already.  Depending on where the stump is, you may want to re configure the regulator set so it is more easy and safer to use.  For example if there is a right arm stump, it would be dangerous to put the regulator on that side as if it was to fall out, the diver could not recover it by themselves. Make sure to speak to someone who has a lot of experience in changing equipment, or if you don’t know, an equipment course or adaptive course would help out massively.

What you may not realise is how much your individual limbs weigh.  If you was to loose some or the whole limb, the main concern when diving may by trim and buoyancy.  I personally suggest double enders and D rings to solve this issue.  On a BCD there are alot of places to clip weights, what i do is attach my 1kg weights to a double ender clip so i can easily clip them onto the D rings and hooks on the diver. This helps put the weight where it needs to go to make the diver feel sturdy and comfortable. If there is a right stump, then you may want to put an extra kg on that side, for example.

Ever seen a tech diver? Another good idea is a reg necklace. I would suggest modifying this slightly and maybe making it so that if the reg does fall out on an amputee diver, they can still easily recover it with their other hand and put it back into place.  Modifying equipment so that your diver can do as much as possible by themselves is a sure way to boost confidence and experience.


Full face masks

The full face mask is probably a doctors go to advice when it comes to disabled diving.  The full face mask broadens the horizon for many people with disabilities. People with no grip, quad amputees, epilepsy and even sight impairment benefit drastically from these diving devices. Full face masks help with regulator recovery issues and mask issues and some even come with communication units so you can talk or describe what a visually impaired person is seeing.

how not to use a full face mask!

Ok, that’s a bit better!

For the Instructor

Here are a few extra things to note that could be very handy when teaching or guiding.  Handles on tanks are perfect to gain and keep control. Turning, stopping and control on the surface is made easier by using tank handles. Slates or other communication devices are good underwater, specifically for people with learning difficulties or mental disabilities. Entry and exit equipment is also good to have for divers who are immobile. To find out more details about what could be used and to get more advice, send an email to [email protected] and inquire about the next training courses.





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