‘I’ve never been comfortable with water,’ explains 30-year-old Somalian-Brit Yahye Siyad as he prepares to head beneath the surface for a scuba-diving lesson. Blind since birth, Yahye, a HR coordinator at MBC Media Group in Dubai, is a student of the Jumeirah Disabled Diving Tawasul programme, which sponsors ten individuals each year to train both in the pool and in the sea.
‘I had a fear of water, and I’ve tried to take swimming lessons before. When I moved to Dubai, the opportunity was here to do something to get me back on track,’ Yahye explains. Despite his challenges, Yahye is no stranger to sport, having represented Great Britain in the Paralympics in goalball, a sport for the blind that’s played using a ball with bells. ‘I believe in trying everything once – I’ve tried cycling, goalball and bowling at a professional level,’ he explains, but swimming had always presented him with a particular challenge. ‘Imagine, not knowing how to swim, and having to dive under the water, up to a few metres down – it’s a very scary thought,’ he says.
‘But the diving instructor is very reassuring, and in my case, all the instructions are done in a tactile manner, so there is physical contact the whole time. The closeness is very reassuring. And in all the sports in which I’ve participated, I’ve never had to receive instruction while performing, so that’s another way this one is different. It’s a challenge in itself.’
Having spent 11 years in the UK, Yahye became accustomed to sports being readily available for people with disabilities. ‘In England it was very accessible for me, and that’s why I went as far as to represent Great Britain in the Paralympics,’ he explains. Contrary to what many might expect, he also notes that since arriving in Dubai just over a year ago, he has heard ‘a lot of things’ about disability sports being available in the emirate. ‘I was chuffed to bits when I heard about this course, that somebody was qualified to teach disabled diving,’ he says, describing it as his ‘first discovery’.
Today he is two months into the programme, and is looking forward to making the most of his experiences after completing the course. ‘I will swim with dolphins at some point; I will maybe excel at swimming. I’ve tried lots of sports that require force and strength and power, but this is like yoga, and I’d like to try that too – something that requires simple mind coordination and body relaxation, but that at the same time is really good for your body.’
Yahye is also set on trying another sport for which Dubai is becoming increasingly well-known – skydiving.
‘I am very, very adventurous by nature, and at the moment I am solely focused on getting better and better at diving, but I’d love to have a go at skydiving,’ he says.
Despite personal challenges, Yahye sets an example of how to make the most of opportunities that present themselves in Dubai. There’s no need to try everything – diving to 18 metres or throwing yourself out of a plane may be too much for some – but, as Yahye says himself, the key is to take one thing at a time, and master it.
To learn more about the Jumeirah Disabled Diving Tawasul programme, or apply, contact The Pavilion Dive Centre at Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8828).
More disability support in Dubai
Deaf Driver Initiative
The RTA has launched an initiative to improve road safety for deaf drivers, and make others aware that they may not hear car horns and other warning sounds. Signage and educational brochures are currently being put together.
For more info, see www.rta.ae.
Learn how to communicate more effectively with aurally-impaired people in day-to-day situations with the American Sign Language (ASL) course at the Eton Institute.
Knowledge Village, www.eton.ac (800 3866).
This organisations assists those who are visually impaired, as well as companies with visually impaired employees. From technical solutions and help with technology to outreach programmes, IT, life skills and employment tips, it covers all bases.
For more information, see www.tamkeen.ae.