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Stay-Focused SCUBA for Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities

  • Date: 2013/07/02 (Rev: 2016/10/26) Thomas C. Weiss - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Information regarding the Stay-Focused SCUBA company that provides teens and young adults with disabilities a unique and transformational learning experience.

Main Document

Stay-Focused SCUBA offers teens and young adults who experience forms of disabilities a unique and transformational learning experience. The organization offers a SCUBA certification program through which people gain confidence, develop leadership skills, and become more independent while joining the Stay-Focused community. The teens and young adults who participate learn to challenge themselves while setting higher goals and form long-lasting relationships along the way.

SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Unlike other modes of diving, which rely either on breath-hold or on air pumped from the surface, scuba divers carry their own source of breathing gas, (usually compressed air), allowing them greater freedom of movement than with an air line or diver's umbilical and longer underwater endurance than breath-hold.

Stay-Focused is also committed to supporting medical research with the goal of exploring the beneficial aspects of diving on people who experience mobility challenges. In order to achieve this goal, the organization has a team of medical doctors who collaborate to develop research protocols. The organization's current objectives in relation to their medical research program include the following:

  • Establishing guidelines to optimize the safety of SCUBA diving for people with disabilities
  • Determining the psychological and physiological benefits of SCUBA diving for people with disabilities
  • Describing the risks of SCUBA diving for people with disabilities to ensure that they are not inappropriately restricted

Stay-Focused values safety, leadership, teamwork, respect, and persistence. The organization offers a seven day Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) SCUBA diving certification program for teens and young adults with disabilities. A year later, every diver is invited for a second week of diving to refresh their skills and to learn more about, 'staying focused.' All of the organization's dives take place in Grand Cayman.

SCUBA Diving

The self-contained underwater breathing apparatus or scuba diving system as it is known today is actually the result of innovations and technological developments that started nearly 300 years ago. Scuba diving is the most extensively used system for breathing underwater by divers who dive for recreation around the world. It is also used to perform underwater work for commercial, military and scientific purposes. Scuba diving as a number of advantages over forms of technical diving such as:

  • Helmeted
  • Mixed gas
  • Free diving
  • Other forms of diving

Scuba divers have a great amount of freedom of movement under water because they swim with fins and do not have a lot of heavy equipment. The gear involved is fairly inexpensive, simple to maintain and operate, and it requires a small support crew if any.

Scuba diving also has some drawbacks, despite these advantages. One of the disadvantages of Scuba diving is that divers have no direct link between themselves and the surface - there is no means of communicating with the diver or monitoring their activities. Scuba divers also have a limited dive time because the diver has to carry all of their air in a tank. Scuba divers have a limited depth they can dive to because decompression diving is usually avoided due to the limited amount of air in the diver's tanks.

Essential Equipment for Scuba Diving

A mask and fins are needed for most divers, as well as basic recreational scuba equipment. The equipment includes a cylinder of compressed air which is attached to a two-stage, 'demand regulator.' The regulator lowers the air pressure in steps from the cylinder and dispenses it to the person who is diving as it is needed.

Cylinders made for scuba diving are composed of steel or aluminum alloy. They are designed to operate safely at pressures that range from 2,250-3,500 pounds per square inch (psi). In comparison, the air pressure at sea level is a mere 15 psi. One of the most often used types of diving cylinders is made of aluminum alloy and has a capacity of 80 cubic feet.

The amount of time it takes a diver to use up the air in a dive cylinder depends on a number of factors such as the diver's breathing rate and the depth the diver descends to. The deeper the diver goes, the more air they use. All cylinders used by scuba divers should be internally inspected at least each year for corrosion and damage.

The main function of the demand regulator that is attached to the diving cylinder is to reduce the high pressure gas supplied by the scuba cylinder to the ambient pressure surrounding the diver at the depth they are currently at. If the diver were to breathe compressed air directly from the cylinder it would very easily rupture their lungs! The reduction of air pressure from the diving cylinder to the diver is accomplished in two steps.

The first stage of the regulator, which is attached to the cylinder valve, reduces the high pressure in the cylinder to an intermediate pressure - around 140 psi over ambient pressure. The intermediate pressure fills a low-pressure hose that connects the first stage of the regulator to the second stage. The second stage, which is contained in the diver's mouthpiece, reduces the intermediate pressure to the ambient pressure. The regulator is referred to as a, 'demand regulator,' because it only supplies air to the diver when they, 'demand,' it. In other words, gas flows through the regulator only when the diver inhales.

Additional Scuba Devices

Additional scuba devices, although not directly involved with the breathing of recreational scuba divers, are still critical for the diver's safety. The devices include a depth gauge, a pressure gauge, and a dive timer. The instruments tell divers about the amount of air left in their cylinder, their depth in the water, as well as how much time they have spent underwater. Divers who exceed the prescribed depth or time spent underwater might become susceptible to, 'nitrogen narcosis,' or decompression sickness - which may be fatal.

Two more items that are usually considered to be essential for scuba divers are a buoyancy compensator device (BC) and a dive knife. Nearly every BC is worn like a vest and includes a band for mounting the diver's air cylinder. The BC contains an air bladder that the diver inflates or deflates in order to maintain control over their buoyancy, giving them the ability to avoid uncontrolled ascents and descents.

Along with the diver's BC, very few divers enter the water without a dive knife and for a reason. The majority of divers carry a knife in case they become entangled in a net, a line, or in some other gear and need to cut them free. A dive knife may also be used as a signaling device by banging it against a dive cylinder.

The History of Stay-Focused SCUBA

Founder and President of Stay-Focused, Roger Muller, worked in both the business world and academia prior to committing to his passion of creating an organization that would provide teens with a unique learning experience. On a diving trip to Grand Cayman in the year 2000, he dived with his brother Bobby who is a Marine Corp combat Veteran as well as a person who experiences paraplegia as a result of an injury sustained during the Vietnam War. After witnessing the extent to which his brother enjoyed the freedom of diving, Roger decided Stay-Focused would be dedicated to offering teens with disabilities the same opportunity to enjoy the water his brother had experienced - www.stay-focused.org

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