Disabled duo with ‘impossible’ dream in record bid – BBC

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Shaun and Salim

Image caption,

Shaun and Salim are building up to a dive in the summer

“We are equal underwater.”

That’s the mantra of Shaun Gash and Mohamed Salim Patel, two friends looking to break down barriers in scuba diving – and set a world record while they are at it.

Paraplegic Shaun and Salim, who is blind, have joined forces with the only instructor who would help them achieve what others had told them was “impossible”.

The pair, who are both from Lancashire, are building up to a dive off the North West coast in the summer.

Salim, a BBC journalist, has a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.

He was diagnosed at 10 years old and told he would go blind one day.

The 29-year-old said his sight suddenly started to deteriorate when he was about 15.

He said he struggled to come to terms with it, but that through his religion and parents’ support he was able to overcome his fears.

“Throughout my life I’ve come across negativity and it motivates me,” he said.

“Every time I mention it to someone they say, ‘well what are you going to get out of it because you can’t see?’

“But for me it’s always a question of ‘well why not?'”

Image caption,

Curly agreed to teach the duo after they were repeatedly turned down

Nearly 33 years ago, Shaun was a passenger in a car involved in a crash, the 53-year-old said the car went around a corner too quickly and flipped over.

He broke his back, wrist, shoulder and punctured both of his lungs, and doctors gave him two days to live.

The father-of-three said he struggled to see a future for himself after the accident, but after meeting his wife Dawn at spinal injury rehabilitation centre, they started a family and now take on fundraising challenges together.

“I couldn’t see where my life was going to take me,” he said.

“I was thinking ‘who was going to have me? Who’s going to marry me? How am I going to have children?’

“Everything I do, Dawn’s always been behind me, same with my kids.

“We’re a family of adventurers.”

Image caption,

The pair were determined to break down stigmas

But for the latest adventure it was not so easy to get things in motion. Every company Salim and Shaun approached with the idea told them it was impossible.

“When I first started looking into the diving, I contacted a number of different companies,” Shaun said.

“As soon as you mention disabilities, as soon as you mention paralysis there was a lot of barriers put up.”

Salim said: “[They were] silly excuses not to be able to do it, and I think it’s because of lack of awareness.

“But we’re both the type of people that will not accept no as an answer.”

When Curly, an Egyptian diving instructor at Morecambe Area Divers heard their plan, he agreed to train the pair to complete their challenge.

“We want to spread the word that diving is for every body, for every ability,” Shaun said.

“Because we are all equal underwater.”

Salim said: “We can show to people, there’s nothing to actually stop you [doing something].

“Apart from what’s in your head.”

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