Being born with or acquiring a disability later in life does not necessarily preclude one from being able to safely SCUBA dive and earn a SCUBA certification. If you are considering pursuing a SCUBA certification, feel free to contact us at info@imaginediving.org , inquire at a local dive shop or directly contact a certifying agency that specializes in working with persons with disabilities.

Certifying agencies you can reach out to include:




SCUBA diving is taught as a buddy sport. Recreational SCUBA divers always dive with a buddy so that should a problem occur in the water, a buddy is present to assist, if assistance is required.  Generally, disability certifications are based on level of ability to perform basic required skills at the surface and below the surface of the water. 

If a person with a disability can provide the same level of assistance to an able-body buddy that the able-body buddy can provide to him or her, then the person with a disability can be certified as an Open Water diver.

It is when a person with a disability can not perform certain basic skills or is limited in the assistance he or she can provide to his or her buddy that disability ratings come into play. Please keep in mind that the following descriptions are intended to be generic and do not represent a specific certifying agency. Differences from what is described versus actual requirements of a certifying agency do exist.

When a diver with a disability can provide the same level of assistance to his or her buddy but has a medical condition that imposes limitations, that diver could be certified as a "level 1" diver. At "level 1", this diver with a disability can dive with any other diver certified as Open Water. An example of where this might occur would be a person  is restricted to donning and removing their SCUBA gear in water as opposed to an a boat or on land due to a limited ability to lift and support the weight of SCUBA gear.

When a diver with a disability is unable to provide the same level of assistance to his or her buddy that can be provided by his or her buddy, but can perform "self rescue" skills, that diver could be certified as a "level 2" diver. At "level 2", this diver with a disability is capable of performing skills like removing their weights, or flooding and clearing his or her mask underwater, but is not capable of "buddy rescue" skills such as towing their buddy across the surface of the water, or sharing air underwater. A "level 2" diver must dive with a team of at least 2 able body divers. Ideally one of these two divers would minimally be certified as a "rescue diver" or better yet, have specific certification in working with persons with disabilities in the water. An example of a "level 2" diver would be a paraplegic.  Persons with down's syndrome or autism, depending on  specific circumstances, could also be "level 2" divers.

When a diver with a disability is unable to perform "self rescue" skills but has demonstrated that he or she can dive safely with a proper support team, that diver could be certified as a "level 3" diver.  A "level 3" must dive with a team of 3 buddies. Ideally, two of these buddies will be certified as "rescue diver" at a minimum. An example of a "level 3" diver would be someone born with Spina Bifida.