Why I'm Attempting a World Record Scuba Dive as a Disabled Person #rwanda #RwOT #InternationalMensDay

2020. A year that started with so much promise, and under-delivered in the most epic way possible. As physical barriers were thrown up for our protection, I looked for ways to connect with the new world we were living in.

It began with a new follower on Instagram. @claw_global stumbled across my account on a Tuesday morning, so I fired off a quick message to introduce myself and say “hello.” Within minutes, they got back to me and it became clear that we had very similar beliefs around sport’s potential to inspire change.

“It’s always worth a cup of coffee,”
 is the advice I was given by one of my great mentors and all-round good guy Ian Braid, something I like to repeat to me especially in times when my schedule is jammed or my motivation is running low. So over my lunchtime coffee, I found myself speaking to the team at CLAW Global.

By the end of the phone call, I had signed myself up for a World Record attempt.

I am going to be part of the largest team of disabled people to scuba dive in the open sea.

This is just one small step in a much larger journey. CLAW Global is bringing people together from across the globe to break three world records. The purpose is to shatter perceptions around disability by conquering the elements of land, sea and air.

It started, as many good ideas do, with a chance encounter. Special Forces operator Major Vivek Jacob had a parachute malfunction which resulted in a spinal cord injury. While he recovered in hospital, he met an Airforce officer who had been permanently paralyzed in an accident. As their friendship developed, the Airforce officer asked him whether he would ever be able to scuba dive, and Jacob made a promise that he would find a way to make it happen. This conversation changed the direction of his life. Jacob retired from the army shortly after this and formed a team of likeminded people with an important mission:

— To change the perceptions of disability, getting people to focus on what a human being can do rather than what they can’t
— To create employment opportunities for people with disabilities supported by suitable adapted ecosystems

Jacob and his team took no money and self-funded this cause. They traveled the length of India and trained over 100 disabled people in scuba diving, including the Airforce officer Jacob met in hospital. They also created opportunities for some of these people to gain meaningful employment. But to get the world to wake up and drive change on a much larger scale, they had to think bigger. They had to act bolder. And this is where the idea of the triple world record was born.

An outline of the three world record attempts.

So why did I decide to team up with CLAW?

Sport is a powerful vehicle for change, and the world badly needs changing. Disability is still one of the most marginalized populations in the world. Barriers touch all aspects of disabled people’s lives, which are propped up by grossly outdated stereotypes and misunderstandings. All that truly matters is ability — what a person can do — but the sad reality is that this often gets overlooked. Instead, people focus on the wrong thing — judging disabled people by what they can’t do.

A shift in perception, a change in thinking lays a solid foundation in breaking down some of these barriers. Without changing our attitudes towards and understanding of disability, we cannot hope to challenge the stigma, prejudice and isolation that still thrives in the world.

The World Records are just a start, one piece in a complex jigsaw. They are a catalyst for change, a chance to see disability as it truly is.

In February, I will be joining the team in the Maldives where I will receive training before heading out to the open sea. I’ve never been scuba diving in my life, so this is a big step out of my comfort zone, as is traveling in the current climate. I’m excited, and nervous, and determined to see it through.

I may be a tiny cog in a very large wheel, but it quickly gains momentum when more players join forces. We all have the capacity to make a difference, and together we can change the world.


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