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SCUBA Diving and ASL:

Amar Abbott
August 21, 2007


SCUBA diving is a great sports where many people have enjoy the ocean and the wildlife that is beneath the oceans surface. I had been an active SCUBA diver for over 10 years and one of my greatest frustrations is not being able to communicate well enough below the ocean surface. Then I realized that American Sign Language (ASL) would be able to fill that gap.

In my research, I found two distinct programs that have combined ASL, and signs that are currently being use by the different certifying dive organizations like Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). The first underwater communication programs that I would like to talk about is called Communication for Diver (C4D) which is currently sponsored and taught by PADI organization the woman who designed, create it and currently the sole instructor of the system is a translator and a certified PADI instructor and her name is Fae J.Silverman she combined her favorite loves to create a system to help divers communicate better in the water.

In an e-mail that I wrote to Fea July 31, 2007 and asked the question what is your system most like ASL? She responded back to me and said, "First, I feel I need to be really clear...the system of communication I researched and devised for use by scuba divers is not based on ASL. The hand signals are international gestures, iconic representations of objects and ideas, and use hand shape classifiers to define shapes. ASL is a language with a grammar and syntax, derived over generations from LSF (French Sign Language) and use in residential schools and Deaf communities around the United States. It is also a land-based language. C4D has only a few grammatical rules, and is entirely based on the underwater experience. The system is designed to be used internationally, so for example, I do not teach finger spelling because that would presume one language dominating over another.." her response sent me back a little bit; the way I understood her system to be was derived from ASL.. As a diver, I see the value in her system.

The second system I would like to talk about is called Sea Signs underwater communications. It is directly derived from two systems ASL and Signed Exact English (SEE). The creator of this system Susanna Kiffmann wanted to provide SCUBA divers of all skill levels with an inexpensive, easy to learn and easy to use way to communicate underwater which increases underwater fun and safety, and I think she has done that with her system.

Since Susanna has created her system based off ASL and SEE, I believe it would be easier and quicker to learn. If a person has learned, ASL or SEE this system would fit nicely with their dive skills. The learning curve would be minimal in order to learn the system. On a website, it states one of the more difficult concepts to learn is how to sign in full dive gear. Which they have addressed by having their instructors and their students in full dive gear while they are learning the system of underwater communication. I believe that is also a great plus for this system, because the system will be second nature to you, if you or your dive buddy find yourself in a serious situation (life or death) and the training will kick in and it will be second nature to you..

In conclusion, these are two great examples on how ASL has helped the hearing world be better. Any SCUBA diver that would love to communicate with their dive buddies better it would behoove them to look into one of these two systems


Kiffimann, S. (2005). Sea Signs Underwarer Communication. Retrieved, from

Silverman, F. J. (2003). Communication for Divers. Retrieved, from

Smith, J. P., & Smith, L. A. (1994). Scuba Divers Sign Langusge Manual (1st ed.). Flagstaff, AZ: Best Pub Co.


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