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Denver Adaptive Divers

Adaptive Dive Training

We humans are weightless underwater. For most able-bodied divers it feels like flying. For those with physical disabilities, it feels like freedom.

That’s why we developed the Denver Adaptive Divers program – to provide those for whom gravity is a punishing limitation with the opportunity to escape the confines of their bodies.

Denver Adaptive Divers uses the curriculum developed by Scuba Schools International (SSI) to teach disabled divers to function to their maximum ability, regardless of injury or limitation. Adaptive divers learn all the same skills as those learned by able-bodied divers, though some skills may need to be performed with help from their adaptive buddy. SSI uses a tiered rating system to indicate how much qualified outside help is required by the adaptive diver student.


The medical considerations for adaptive divers can be very complex. Adaptive students must be evaluated by their medical professionals before beginning the course. The more common conditions for adaptive divers are amputations; spinal cord injury; autonomic dysreflexia; traumatic brain injury; cerebral palsy; progressive conditions like Parkinson’s Disease; and sensory disorders.

Each of these conditions may require specific attention during dive training and diving by the diver’s buddy and/or instructor.

Absolute contraindications to scuba include internal defibrillators, pace-makers, or ventricular devices; mechanically assisted breathing; medicated patches or internal pumps for pain management or muscle spasms; or a VP shunt.

All students, adaptive divers and their buddy(ies) must fill out a medical form prior to any in-water work. Please download the SSI Medical Statement with Physician's Release. All adaptive divers are required to have a physician's release in order to participate in any in-water training. Please also download the Physician's Medical Evaluation Guidelines for reference to any contraindications to scuba diving and for more information.


An adaptive diver’s medical condition can suggest or require dive gear configured specifically for his or his disability. For example, regular wetsuits can be modified with full zippers on the legs or arms. Regulators may be reconfigured to allow the second stage to drop on the left rather than right side.

It is important for an adaptive diver to train with the gear he or she intends to use in the open water. Denver Divers takes steps to ensure that happens.



Most of our certified adaptive divers receive scholarship funding for training and materials, gear, and some portion of the dive trip dedicated to certifying qualified adaptive diver candidates. Once you complete an application, our board will award funding between January and May of each year. Visit our Scholarships Page for more information or to apply today!

Self Funded Certification

You can certainly participate in dive training and our dedicated dive trips without receiving scholarship funding. We will just work with you to set up a customized course for you and your dive buddy(ies) as follows:

  • Maximum number of students: 2-3 depending on the adaptive diver's need(s) for assistance
  • Tuition: $450 per student (adaptive divers are recommended to bring a buddy that will be dedicated to diving and training with the adaptive diver)
  • Academic Materials Fee: $165 per student
  • Schedule: Customized to fit the divers' schedules and pool availability at Denver Divers
  • Duration: Typical Adaptive Diver courses take between 20-30 hours to complete, but we will dedicate as much time as needed to make sure you are a adaptive dive team


Denver Adaptive Divers (DAD) raises its own funding each year. We couple our efforts with those of our partner organizations including Adaptive Adventures and Dive Pirates. In addition, many scuba manufacturers donate gear each year. Our top vendors include TUSA, Mares, Scubapro, and Huish.

DAD sponsors two primary fundraisers each year. We generally hold an Underwater Poker Party in the fall and our annual Fundraising Dinner at the beginning of each calendar year. We also write grants to other non-profits. And we certainly accept money from individual donors.

To find out more, please visit our Get Involved with DAD page!

Take your first step today!

Minimum Age: 10 years old

Academic Material Fee Includes:

  • Online downloadable interactive course
  • Online certification card
  • Plastic certification (if desired)
  • 2 years access to online logbook
  • Paper logbook
  • Travel dry bag

Required Documents:

Course Includes:

  • Use of all training equipment including mask, fins, snorkel, BC, regulator, & wetsuit
  • FREE pool practices on a custom schedule for all students with one of our qualified instructors to get ready for your open water certification dives.
  • FREE use of the pool once you are certified (Our Denver Divers students enjoy this benefit for a lifetime!)

Not Included: Certification Dives (see step 5 below)


Adaptive divers are usually referred to Denver Divers through partner organizations, such as Adaptive Adventures or the MS Society. Self-referral by divers and their family members or friends are encouraged. To contact us, email Director John Sherman at or Janine Melberg at You are always welcome to give us a call as well, 303-399-2877.

Once scheduled, you will attend a brief orientation, where you will have a conversation with our instructors or support professionals and you will complete the required enrollment paperwork and receive medical release forms to take to your physician.


Upon medical release, Denver Divers will schedule you and your buddy(ies) for a “Try Scuba” in our 88 degree, salt-water pool. During your Try Scuba experience you will receive direct attention from one or more of our Classified Dive Instructors, who will use common medical equipment to aid your try scuba experience, as necessary.

Your instructor will also take that opportunity to evaluate your physical capabilities. Occasionally, a potential diver who is challenged on land can become self-sufficient in the water and receive a regular Open Water Diver certification.


If you decide to pursue Open Water certification, you will receive the SSI link to access your online student materials. You are then ready to begin your home study for class. Please expect to devote approximately six to eight hours to this process.

A few hints for greatest electronic success with SSI's Online Materials:

**IMPORTANT: Have an up to date Internet Browser (Google Chrome 29 or Mozilla Firefox 24) with Flash- and Javascript-enabled Internet Connection (the faster, the better) **If you use Internet Security Software, add to your trusted sites or adapt the sites as per the users manual. **Make sure your pop up blockers are turned off for


Your training includes an academic review in the classroom, as well as in-water skills development training in Denver Divers’ indoor, heated, salt water pool – our “ocean simulator”. Most of the time spent with our qualified instructors and dive buddy(ies) will be in the pool gaining the skills and confidence necessary for diving in the open water. At the end of your course you will take a 50-question certification exam. Please expect to devote approximately 20 to 30 hours to this process.


In order to become certified, you will need to complete at least four open water certification dives under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor. Your instructor will evaluate your skills as you apply what you have learned during your academic and pool training to an open water environment. You will also learn practical lessons that can only be gained through real-world experience.

All open water divers must take this final step of performing scuba skills in an open body of water. Denver Adaptive Divers sponsors one to two dive trips each year that are dedicated to Adaptive Divers. These trips are directly staffed by Adaptive Instructors who are responsible for your certification dives.

Alternatively, we can also help you identify a specifically trained instructor at many dive destinations for a referral to complete your certification dives.


At the successful conclusion of your certification process with Denver Adaptive Divers and Scuba Schools International, you will receive one of four designations, as detailed below:

    • Independent Open Water Diver: Achieved by performing all the skills mastered by more able-bodied divers.
    • Classified Diver Level I: Approved to dive with one certified adaptive dive buddy
    • Classified Diver Level II: Approved to dive with one dive professional* (instructor or assistant instructor) and one certified adaptive dive buddy
    • Classified Diver Level III: Approved to dive with one dive professional* (instructor or assistant instructor) and two certified adaptive dive buddies

*While you must be trained by an Adaptive Diving instructor, once you are certified you can dive with a certified assistant instructor.