Shobhika Kalra is set to become the UAE’s first wheelchair-bound woman to go scuba-diving Image Credit:

Dubai: A Dubai resident who suffers from a rare degenerative disorder is all set to become the UAE’s first known wheelchair-bound woman to go scuba-diving.

Twenty-five-year-old Shobhika Kalra, diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) which affects the nervous system, muscles and heart, told XPRESS that she will be taking the big plunge at The Atlantis on November 25.

“The idea is to create awareness about wheelchair disabilities and how to work around them,” she said.

Shobhika, who runs an initiative called Wings of Angelz, has helped build over 550 ramps in public and private places across the UAE in a bid to make life easier for wheelchair-bound people.

A spokesperson for The Atlantis confirmed that Shobhika had approached the hotel to experience diving.

“We happily agreed to host her,” she said.

Dive Discovery

Noting that Shobhika would be doing a “Dive Discovery”, the spokesperson explained, “It’s diving in the Ambassador Lagoon which is home to 65,000 marine animals. We are happy to involve people with special needs in our activities and to emphasise the fact that this is not only dedicated to regular guests but for everyone who wants to discover marine life.”

In a bid to prepare for the big day, Shobhika said she had resumed swimming sessions. “As a two-year-old, I learnt to swim before I could walk. Swimming was so natural to me. But today, my muscles have become so weak that I struggle.” She said she had undergone a thorough medical check-up to find out if she could go diving and the doctors had given her a go-ahead on the condition that two more divers would go down into the water with her.

“I don’t know how the experience will be, but I am looking forward to it,” she added. Shobhika, who was featured on the XPRESS cover in June this year, works with a team of 20 volunteers, along with her sister Ruchika to get ramps constructed. The group engages with government departments, developers, restaurants, shops and offices to identify places where such ramps are needed.