Disabled dive in on an Ios holiday.
Living with a disability is not easy and a Greek island diving holiday may not be the first place to look for help with coping. But a scuba diving company on the Greek island of Ios hopes to change all that. On Ios there is now a beach-front diving school, Camp Phoenix, that offers scuba diving holidays for anyone aged 8 to 80 - from beginners right through to professional qualifications.
Most importantly, the Ios scuba diving school has been set up by a small team of people who have all worked in a professional capacity with special needs.
These include autism, blindness, deafness (they have a BSL signer on staff) , spinal injury, ADHD, learning difficulties, genetic conditions, mental illness and sadly, more recently, with injured military personnel, many of them wheelchair users.
Now the Ios scuba diving centre takes around 20 wheelchair users, and many others with special needs, on the experience of a lifetime, scuba diving in the seas around Ios.
Scuba diving has always been hugely popular on Greek Island holidays and, of course, it needs a reasonable level of fitness to enoy it to the full. Being underwater, virtually weightless and surrounded by marine life can feel like heaven. And if you are disabled, that feeling could mean so much more.
All too often, disabled people, or those with mental health problems, rule themselves out of such an exciting activity with hardly a thought.
The aim of the Ios scuba diving school is to help combat 'political correctness' and cotton-wool attitudes often associated with adaptive sports.
Too many businesses cite risk assessments, insurance considerations and adopt the "sorry we are not able to do that" as a reason why disabled customers are unable to participate.
But disabled divers are treated no differently at Camp Phoenix. They dive with able-bodied divers off the same boat at the same time (something that is not so common as most dive schools split out the disabled groups).
Camp Phoenix will provide a personal dive buddy, if needed, at no extra charge, and Ios has a super local doctor who can advise on any diving related medical issues.
The Greek island of Ios offers a number of different types of dive sites, both shore-based and by boat, with depths ranging from 6 metres to 30 metre.
Favourite dive sites around Ios include a local fishing boat that was ship-wrecked in a storm near the port entrance, a second-world-war aeroplane and some fascinating cavern dives.
Dolphins can occasionally be spotted from the dive boat and lucky divers may even see the odd sea turtle. Night divers regularly see octopus gardens, moray eels and large shoals of fish.
The waters of Ios island are crystal clear and most days you will find over 25 metres of visibility. The Camp Phenix dive boat operates twice a day and there are dives from the shore at least four times - so there is always a dive to suit everyone's schedule.
The Camp Phenix diving school also has a turtle sponsorship program - giving €1 for every beginner that dives and €5 for every qualification course to ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece. Customers can also take part in conservation work while on holiday on Ios.
A word of warning - Ios island is really not the most adaptive-friendly place because, like many Greek islands, there are lots of steps in the little village. The idea of better wheelchair access is still in the early stages, but that should not stop anyone in a wheelchair, or with restricted movement, enjoying the island of Ios.
If customers can't get into a shop (some of which are no bigger than a broom cupboard!) the owners are more than happy to bring goods outside.
If steps stop people getting into a bar or restaurant then it's not unheard of to see four people pick up a chair and lift it in. It may not be ideal but everyone tries to help and Ios really does have a 'can-do' attitude. Ios makes up for any shortfalls with a huge smile and a helpful hand!
There are a number of hotels on Ios that have adaptive rooms and a great many more which are suitable for chair use, even if they are not recognised 'officially' as disabled-friendly.
The Ios swimming pools used by Camp Pheonix for scuba dive training all have steps suitable for easy access and have on-site showers and changing rooms that are easy to access.
If you are interested in scuba diving on the Greek holiday island of Ios - able-bodied or not - please get in touch via the website at www.campphoenix.co.uk. Here you will find all the details about scuba diving on Ios as well as plenty of general information about a holiday on Ios.