Special scuba program Diveheart gives those with disabilities new outlook on life

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (KABC) -- A special scuba diving program teaches people with disabilities that they can do more than they ever imagined.

Below the surface the differences are hard to find, but back on dry land there's no escaping it.

"I got injured 25 years ago. And I've kind of done it all from snowskiing and I race a quad and I skydive. But scuba is just an equalizer because once you're neutrally buoyant, you don't feel disabled at all," Darryl Lair, of Hesperia, said.

And that's thanks to the program called Diveheart. Now, Lair gets the chance to see a whole new world.

The nonprofit trains those with disabilities to dive, which helps them find newfound confidence by going deep underwater.

"It's really not about scuba diving. It's about helping people with disabilities imagine the possibilities in their life," founder Jim Elliot said.

Elliot started Diveheart 15 years ago after he was inspired by his blind daughter. The program has since helped thousands of children, adults and veterans around the world take the plunge. Whether they are in a wheelchair or dealing with autism, the effects of zero gravity are life changing.

"This is going to revolutionize rehabilitation. One of our teams went down to the Cayman Islands with Hopkins and found there's an extra output of serotonin at depth, which helps with pain management," Elliot said.

Everything at Diveheart is free. All the instructors are volunteers and those who get in the water don't pay anything. It's all done through donations, which is a gift of a lifetime for those floating without the weight of the world.

They forget what they can't do and only dream of what the underwater wonderland has to offer.

"To have movement without any pain and to just be kind of floating and be able to go where you want to go is...I can't describe it. I can't describe it," said Irma Groot, of Phoenix, Arizona.

To learn more about the program, visit diveheart.org.
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