Our History


IAHD-Americas is the world’s premier adaptive scuba training & certification agency. Our mission is to share the magic of scuba diving with individuals with serious physical, mental and emotional disabilities to allow them to participate in underwater activities. To accomplish this requires competent, well-trained instructors, underwater guides, and capable dive buddies, as well as training programs, standards, guidelines, materials, and member support. All these things are what IAHD-Americas is about.


Established in 1992 in Denmark, the International Association for Handicapped Divers, known as IAHD, has grown to cover the globe with educational and training programs, diver and professional certifications, and therapy & rehabilitation programs that address a broad range of physical, mental and emotional challenges. From it’s early European roots, the association expanded across the continent, and then in a natural progression, grew in popularity where Europeans routinely traveled to enjoy the sport of scuba diving. The Red Sea, Southeast Asia, and Middle East all blossomed with IAHD-based scuba programs, dive centers and instructors. One area that lagged far behind in the development of IAHD popularity was the Americas. In 2004, Klaas Brower, the long-time chairman of IAHD, determined the best way to address this matter was to attack it head on, from within the Americas. After two years of consideration, planning and development, he selected IAHD-Professional David Valaika as the Executive Director for the IAHD for the Western Hemisphere, and IAHD-Americas was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Over the next several years, the two agencies ran in tandem, exhibiting, conducting training, and promoting at trade shows worldwide. It became apparent that the European model differed from the American version, and when the IAHD organization changed leadership in the Netherlands in 2009, IAHD-Americas parted ways with the new IAHD ownership and re-launched as a completely independent certification agency.

Separation from IAHD

This independence allowed many great changes that had been hampered by the earlier arrangement to finally be executed. First and foremost, it was established that divers with disabilities are entitled to certification-level training at no cost. This was the first time any handicapped scuba association established such a policy and it has allowed hundreds of students, who would not otherwise be financially able, to undertake the great sport of scuba diving throughout the Americas.

Working in collaboration with a number of rehabilitation centers, medical facilities, therapy-support groups, government agencies, and noted experts in the medical field, IAHD-Americas continues to build its education programs and knowledge resources to help train others in the use of the sport and science of scuba diving as a valuable tool to address a broad spectrum of disorders and provide a higher quality of life to those who deserve it most. IAHD-Americas receives very positive responses from rehabilitation centers, diving clubs and organizations, diving instructors and the media. In addition, IAHD-Americas also conducts seminars, symposiums, and educational programs throughout the industry to share advancements in training and programs. It is our goal to allow others to see what has worked well for us, in order for similar programs and methods to be applied elsewhere. One world, one team, one goal, is our mantra, and we embrace the opportunity to work with others in the field.