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‘Very empowering’: Blindness won’t stop Toronto man’s quest to become certified diver
On Sunday, a blind Crown prosecutor was among a group of students at a Toronto diving school beginning their quest to become certified scuba divers.
No one would dive blindly into an open body of water, but Jason Mitschele would. He has a desire to scuba dive. What makes him different from other divers; Mitschele is blind. On Sunday, the Toronto federal Crown prosecutor, took his first diving lesson in his quest to become a certified diver.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind offers courses through partners like Dive World in Toronto for visually impaired people looking to try new things.
Pete Gilbert, project lead for the adaptive dive program and director of training, has experience teaching various types of physically challenged people. This is the first class of blind students he has taught in Canada.
"They (blind divers) just have a different experience than us. It’s more about feel, and there’s some things that maybe wouldn’t be so obvious to us as sighted divers or sighted people that can be really exciting." Gilbert told CTV News Toronto.
The program starts in a classroom. Students spend time learning how the equipment feels and works. Underwater communication can be challenging for sighted people, but for people who are blind, a new and different language is needed.
Nerlind Sheshi, dive partner to Mitschele, uses tactile gestures to communicate. The two will hold hands to convey information instead of the usual visual hand signals used by sighted divers.
"Signals like OK -- I squeeze once, and he squeezes back. That tells me he's ok." Technical information also needs to be conveyed, he adds: "the pressure is this much, and I would press somewhere and give information."
Mitschele was excited to get into the pool to after the in class lesson was complete.
"I’m kind of looking forward to at some point getting into some deeper water and trying something a little more advanced but this is a great start. We’re getting all the basics down where it’s safe," the prosecutor said. "My brother lives in Thailand and they have some pretty amazing diving there, so I want to try and get some diving under my belt before going for a visit."
The 47-year-old wasn't born completely blind but had no vision in one eye due to early onset glaucoma. Rather than braille he uses text-to-voice software to read and write. When not working, being blind doesn't deture him from running, swimming, or riding a bike as he has competed in a number of triathalons. Mitschele says he likes to try new things and is "fairly adventurous".
Next year, Mitschele will be climbing Mt.Kilimanjaro. Scuba diving, he said, was just another thing on his bucket list.
"The feeling of being included in something that only sighted people have done, and my experience that I can now appreciate what they're experiencing and even join them at some point is, is very empowering."