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ISSUE 15 ARCHIVE - BLIND DIVER, ROBERT

A blind man has conquered his disability to plunge into the underwater world. Robert Ainsley-Raffel was born blind but that hasnít stopped the have-a-go Geordie making a splash with the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC). They have helped the 25-year-old from Hexham complete his training in a swimming pool with flying colours and now Robert is looking forward to his first open water dives and passing his Ocean Diver qualification.

Not that Robert has ever let his disability stop him tackling a challenge. Remarkably, he was educated at mainstream schools and attended agricultural college, where he obtained a national diploma as a land-based technician. But itís passing his dive theory with 100% and completing his confined water dives in a swimming pool that has given Robert the biggest thrill. He said: ďI havenít got a problem being blind Ė itís other people that arenít prepared to step outside the box and find a way around problems that I have the biggest trouble working with. That certainly wasnít the case with Regional Coach, Dave Lucas. Right from the start he was prepared to give it a go and train meĒ. They worked around problems, adapting traditional methods of skill demonstrations and even used a white stick as a guide in the pool to stop Robert banging his head.

Robert says, ďIím happiest diving and I canít wait to finish my Ocean Diver certificate. The British Sub-Aqua Club and especially Dave Lucas have been terrific. Itís just magic when people are prepared to work around a little problem, such as blindness, to come up with a solution. I will never be put off by a challenge and donít see why I canít try anything I want to. I know someone will always bang on about health and safety but sometimes you just have to think outside the box and come up with a solution.Ē

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