Project Poseidon is a program aimed to open scuba diving up to the visually impaired. The project founders Piero Greco and Giuseppe Bilotti, strongly believe that scuba diving is a powerful therapeutic tool, which can both physically and mentally improve the quality of life of the blind and people affected by other disabilities.

Started in 1998, Project Poseidon is promoted by the “Gruppo Subacqueo Paolano”, Paola diving centre, and is supported by the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Italian Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute. It celebrated its 12th year in 2010. Beside teaching scuba diving to the visually impaired, the program also provides training for blind scuba diving instructors and, so far, employs 14 certified diving instructors for the purpose. Once underwater, blind divers are encouraged to experience the seabed with their sense of touch, while a sighted instructor watches over them. Student and instructor are always joined by a cable for safety reasons.

Over the years, the staff at “Gruppo Subacqueo Paolano” have developed a distinctive and advanced underwater communication system for the blind, based on hand signals and touch techniques. Also military scuba divers have been trained in this system in order to operate in low visibility conditions. Though usually considered a visual experience, scuba diving has the potential to be a powerful therapeutic tool for the visually impaired.

The absence of the usual physical benchmarks represents an extraordinary challenge, which, once overcome, becomes a mark of personal success, on which divers can build and strengthen their own self confidence. The constant need to rely on others also enables blind students to bond with their course mates, assistants and instructors, thus breaking the isolation in which blind people are often forced to live.

text © Valentina Tordoni