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What do you look for on a liveaboard?

Discussion in 'Divers with Disabilities' started by eshta, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. eshta

    eshta Garibaldi

    I'm new here and need your help. My husband and I run a liveaboard diving boat in the Red Sea. We have been seriously thinking of making our boat a boat that will handle handicapped divers and would like your input on what you think are the most important things that are needed.
    We've thought about larger rooms and easy access to the bathrooms for wheelchairs. Also a chair lift for getting them to their cabins if needed. This idea is all new to us and I felt that since you are disabled divers you could help us with what you are looking for in a boat. We would appreciate any info you can give us. I know there are many people all over the world that could use this service and also thought this would be great to offer people to give them a new sense of life with a disability...
    Thank you for any response.
  2. wacdiver

    wacdiver Nassau Grouper

    Hey Jayne it is great to hear that dive operators are starting to make considerations for those of us with some physical limitations.
    I have never been on a liveabord before so I can not tell you WHAT I look for BUT I can tell you what makes diving easier for me when I go on charters or on a friends boat, and also what I know about accessible living conditions for a disabled person.
    As a diver with a disabilty I can say I do NOT look at a dive operation the same way a another diver would. The average diver looks for things like Good helpful crew, nice boat, good dive spots, # and type of dives, type of gear available, and of course price. As a diver with a disability I have to look at the bigger picture.... Can I get in and out of the water easy enough? Is the crew gonna be ready to give me the assistance I may require? Do they offer dive sites I can handel (considering my physical limitations strong current or surge and other factors could pose a problem) So it isn't (for me anyway) what do I WANT as much as WHAT DO I NEED. So here are some ideas for you to think about.
    YOUR First concern is accessibility. To most people who have not had close relationships with a disabled person accessibility issues are easily overlooked. Here are a few ideas to combat issues of mobility for those of us with disabilities.
    Make sure all doorways and hallways are at least 36 inches wide (wheelchairs need at least 36 inches to manuver properly). Obiviously the deck area and other common areas (rooms, halls, dive platforms, dining/meeting/leisure areas) should be free from obstructions (tanks, ropes, gear, hoses, or other items on the ground is a minor trip hazard to most people to someone in a wheelchair or with bad hips/legs like myself it can be an unpassable blockade).
    PLEASE Make sure you have handrails or other support/stability items in ALL common areas for those of us who are mobil (walking) but unsteady. I need to hold on or just brace myself whenever I am moving/standing on a pitching boat. Support/stability items do not all need to be at hip height, I tend to hold onto overhead poles, beams, straps, also walls, ladders, or whatever I can grab that won't move or fall if I hold onto it. BUT this may not work for someone who uses crutches or walkers since grabing upwards or using a free hand may not be possible.
    STAIRS may as well be the grand canyon to someone in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. You need to address this issue when considering a disabled person. On a boat space is definatley limited so you need to plan well where you are going to have disabled acessible rooms, and HOW a person can access the other common areas of the ship without too much difficulty. If it is 1 or even 2 steps up or down you can address it by using a small peice of wood or metal as a ramp (but make sure it fits tight and will not move/slide while someone is on it). Anything longer and a ramp may not be possible due to the pitch of the ramp and turning clearance in the room/hall (too steep and a wheelchair can become a runaway train going down, or extremely difficult to climb up. Not enough turn clearance and you have a wheelchair stuck at the bottom/top unable to turn off the ramp and get into the ajoining area).
    The state room itself must also follow the above guidelines. Free from obstructions, wide enough to turn and move a wheelchair around, places to grab and hold onto for stability. Doorknobs/locks, dressers, tables, and extra seating all need to be at an accessible height for your clients. With this you also need to consider transfer options. Many people with a disability need to transfer from their chair to other places. A person in a wheelchair may need little to no help moving from chair to bed/toilet/tub, BUT others may need someone or something to assist or even do the entire transfer for them. You can go online to see many options used to assist with transfers.
    (some useful sites that may help or give you some transfer ideas/products www.mdausa.org www.homemods.org/products/products.html, www.access-board.gov/recreation/guides/pools.htm, www.wheelchairnet.org/WCN_ProdServ/Products/adldev.html) Many of these transfer devices can be very costly so look for other viable options that can work with your given space.
    The other major concern in their state room is the BATHROOM! The bathroom must be wide enough for a wheelchair to maneuver and you need to have handrails (or other transfer device) by the toilet (there are alot of options for toilet transfers). Showers/tubs need to have handrails (more than one and at different height levels) for stability and for transfering and should be wheelchair accesible (no step or lip, chair should roll in) or if making the shower/tub wheelchair accessible is not possible (too small a space, too $$$ to convert) you must have a viable transfer option (tub seat and removable (showermassager)showerhead for ease of independent cleaning or other options). The sink needs to be at an appropriate height for clients to use and plumbing pipes underneth should be as streamlined as possible. The persons legs need to be able to get under the sink and sit as close as possible to the sink (if it is regualr dimension plumbing pipes they tend to be in the way of the persons legs, and can't get close enough to the sink)
    That is pretty much it for accesibility issues (that I can think of for the moment).

    continued in next post
  3. wacdiver

    wacdiver Nassau Grouper

    UNDERSTANDING!!!! UNDERSTANDING!!!! UNDERSTANDING!!!! This is probably the most important thing you need when dealing with a person with a disability. You need to understand WHAT their personal limits are (people with the same disorder do not necessariliy have the same limits, or needs)and WHAT they NEED from you. You want to be able to offer a person special services to meet the needs or requirements they may have, but you DO NOT want to overstep their request. I know that for myself that if you assume I need help or do things for me that I can do for myself that you TAKE AWAY my power, my self worth, my independence (and you risk a verbal beatdown). Many people will get very angry or upset when others assume they need help, we are NOT helpless people we have limits and at times do need to be assisted but taking away what we CAN do for ourselves takes away what little self reliance we may have. I know many a person who got their head ripped off by a person with a disability because they helped out and did something when help was not asked for or needed. ASK, DON"T ASSUME!! If we need help we will tell you or ask for it. If a person seems to be struggling and having difficulty just ask "You OK?" "Need sme help?" "need a hand?" whatever works, but please do not think that just because I am fighting to get my fins on (or whatever) that I need you to do it for me. Or if I fall down do not try to grab or help me up unless you want a punch in the...(whatever body part is closest to me at the time) , because I need to get up a certain way and by you grabing or holding me it makes things worse not easier. Ask "You alright, need help?" extend a hand for me to grab IF I need it, don't just grab me. Even those who may have a more severe disability and it is apparant that they will be needing allot of help (quadrapalegic for example) they should still be aksed first. You don't know how they prefer something or if they have special needs that must be considered first. The above may sound somewhat strange to most because you think you are helping and have the best intentions, but TOO much help is NOT help at all, if I let everybody do the things I can do for myself then why should I bother doing anything at all??
    OK on to some technical issues.
    I have found that I have problems with certain types of BCDs. My limited range of motion with my arms is severly restricted when I wear a vest style BC that inflates around the front and sides. It becomes hard to grab release straps, weight belt, reach items on D rings, or even put in or take stuff out of my pockets. I am NOT saying you should NOT have vest style BCDs, not at all. BUT you should have a few alternatives available, be flexible, have options.
    Entering and Exiting the water is probably going to be one of your greatest challenges for your disabled clients. Stairs are HARD for many of us, Impossible for some, and ladders are even worse. So how do you SAFELY get your diver with a disability in and out of the water? Well in is not so hard. I have fallen over the side of MANY boats and have Yet to miss the water. BUt seriously for many of us we just need to be suited up and fall on into the pool (with a buddy close by in the water just in case. SAFETY FIRST!!) and we are good to go. Many others this is NOT an option so entry must be more controlled. I have seen two good options for this. 1. Having a LARGE swim platform is a MUST if you are working with divers with disabilities because you need to have the diver and 1,2 people (or more) helping the diver with gear (putting it on or taknig it off) and also helping them in or out. Three of 4 people on a swim platform can get really crowded and can be a potential problem if not managed right (people or gear going overboard). Also the platform should be low in the water so it is easier for the diver to almost swim right onto the platform without having to climb to get back onboard. Now a Hydrolic/mechanical swim platfrom would be even better cause then you can adjust height based on need high and level with the desk to get the diver on the platform and then lowered to enter the water and exiting, then lift to return to the deck. But swim platforms can pose many problem aside from the above issues (hydrolic can be real expensive, it may not be possible to lift the platfrom high enough to be level with the deck, ect) So even with a large platform this may NOT be the best option.
    The other option I have seen is a (crane like) lift. The lift (usually used for lifting loads on and off or nets full of fish) has a netting designed to cradel the diver lift him/her up and over the side of the boat and slowly lower them into the water at the end of the dive they swim back in the cradle up and back onto the deck (sometimes right back into their wheelchair). This option does require special equipement but gives a safe effective way to transfer your divers in and out in total safety with the least amount of muscle.
    I dive Key West about once a year and have used the same charter for the past 3 years now because they KNOW me, KNOW my limits, KNOW when to help and when not to, and most importantly they make me feel OK about asking for help. I never feel ashamed or embarrased because they make it a point to make sure My needs and my wants are met. And they do it with a smile. If this is what you guys plan on offering then plan on having a very loyal customer following because it is hard for a diver with disabilities to feel at home on a charter boat so once we find a good one we tend to stick with em (at least I do).
    Good luck on your endevor guys hope it works out for you.
    If ya have any Q's PM me I'll be happy to put in my .02
  4. brssmnky

    brssmnky Nassau Grouper

    Wow, this is great. Kudos to you, Jayne, for being a service provider who cares about all your potential customers. Also, yeah, definitely Wacdiver has GREAT points here for accessibility for people with mobility disabilities. You may want to keep people with other disabilities in mind, too. People with visual impairments may want some considerations like large print signs also with Braille on all the signs. Also, if you do have stairs, high contrast strips on each step (the yellow and black stripes). For Deaf people, have all important things in writing, or even better, have things on video (safety precautions and other things) with either open/closed captioning or sign language (unfortunately this is not international, but as diverse as spoken language). Does your main office have a Telecummunications Device for the Deaf ~ "TDD" (I don’t know what it’s called in Egypt??)

    Another nice thing that some US based cruises are offering are “free rides” for people’s attendants. Maybe if someone has a personal attendant or a dive guide (which you may want to also offer to your customers with disabilities through your own staff, if they’re needed), they get free passage.

    The most important thing, though, is to have TRAININGS for your staff so that they are aware of the needs of their customers who have various disabilities. Accessibility, yes! Physically, etc. But I think after that, your staff just needs to understand that some people with disabilities need some more help with some activities. Know when to ask, know when to step back. Happy Diving! :wink:
  5. dilligaf368

    dilligaf368 Nassau Grouper

    I'm disabled for a year, after diving for over 30yrs Professionaly. In commercial diving, and would help Your boat, is the diver is lowered by a basket which is lowered over the side by electric motor and cable or Air drive motor/cable. This is very easy to do. the basket should be capable for 3-4 people. Simple, 4'x6' with handrails. The basket has four straps to the posts with handrails. The basket is raised from a depth of 8' to the deck level. A set of guides on each side to guide the basket when the boat rolls. The basket has a gate which allows the divers to exit/enter at deck level. This eleminates ladders and will work for long periods without need of work to the mechanics.
    We have used this system for years and years. In big operations the basket is raised with a crane or davit. You can build to suit. Word of Caution....if the basket is raised on skids the basket can be controlled at sea. If just left to swing and twist then accidents can and do happen.
    Just a thought. by the way........The USN uses this to lower divers since 1920. I was Navy trained and this basket is a must for MK5 divers (Hard Hat with breast plate).....Bill

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