The Cody Unser First Step Foundation’s (CUFSF) quality of life motto is “Changing Lives One Dive at a Time.” Embodying the Health and Wellness Pillar of PADI’s Four Pillars of Change initiative, PADI recently released a short film showcasing the inspirational story of CUFSF founder and PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser. Unser and her CUFSF dive team provide participants with spinal cord-related paralysis with scuba instruction and PADI® Open Water certification to improve quality of life.
“Scuba is that catalyst that can transform people’s perceptions about what’s possible, and that people with disabilities want to not only live life, but thrive in it!” Unser says.
In June, CUFSF took their message to the No Barriers Summit in north Lake Tahoe, California, USA. A long-standing supporter of CUFSF, the PADI organization attended this immersive event to film Unser and share her story of transcending barriers through adaptive diving. For an inside look at Unser’s work, watch her My PADITM video.
On 12-13 August, Unser and her volunteer dive team conducted a PADI Open Water Diver course for the physical and occupational therapists from the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, along with an introductory scuba event for the institute’s patients. Their goal: to integrate more medical professionals into the world of diving, while showing participants with spinal cord injuries that anything is possible.
“My hope is that the work that we do at the Cody Unser First Step Foundation with our Adaptive Scuba Program will help motivate and inspire the world to become more accepting and adapting for people with disabilities,” Unser says.
Since becoming paralyzed at the age of 12 due to transverse myelitis, Unser has worked to show others how powerful adaptive sports can be for the health and quality of life of people with paralyzing injuries and conditions. By convincing her doctors about the beneficial neurological and psychological effects of scuba diving on paralysis, Unser has demonstrated to the medical world that diving can promote healing.
“Having lost sensation and function in my lower body, diving made me feel whole again. It’s that feeling of freedom and independence that made me want to share it with others who, like me, doubted and feared life with a paralyzed body on land,” Unser says. “Now that doubt and fear doesn’t exist!”
Backing Unser’s work, and other organizations like CUFSF, PADI is launching a new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course in November, which enables PADI Pros to help people with varying abilities meet PADI course performance requirements. In addition, the program includes a PADI Adaptive Support Diver course for divers interested in learning how to support dive buddies who would benefit from adaptive techniques. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive: Anyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to participate. This new program aims increase awareness of adaptive techniques that focus on what scuba participants can do rather than on what they can’t.
To participate or donate to the Cody Unser First Steps Foundation fundraising efforts, visit its Go Fund Me page.