Sue Austin, who uses a wheelchair, learned to scuba dive in 2005. That’s when she began to wonder: Could I dive with my wheelchair?
The answer, it turns out, is yes.
This week, Austin, an artist from Great Britain, will unveil a prototype of a self-propelled underwater wheelchair. The unveiling is timed with the Paralympics in London. Austin, who has used a wheelchair since 1996, developed the chair with help from dive experts and academics.
“When we started talking to people about it, engineers were saying it wouldn’t work, the wheelchair would go into a spin, it was not designed to go through water – but I was sure it would,” she told the BBC.
The wheelchair, which has not yet been named, has patents pending and is already in demand, she said.
“We’ve had PADI [Professional Association of Diving Instructors] course directors and very experienced divers saying they would pay to hire it,” she said. “The Oceanography department at the University of Plymouth, where I did a BA [bachelor of arts degree] in performing art, said it would make their courses accessible to students with disabilities.”
The only problem with the wheelchair? It’s beginning to rust. That’s why her next one, she says, will be made out of titanium.
To read more about Austin’s underwater wheelchair and to see a video of it in action, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19389396