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August 2004 Vol. 19, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diving Is Not For Everyone, Thankfully

from the August, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In 1999, Emily Gilbert and other members of her family began taking scuba lessons from Above & Under Water, owned by Donald Milliken in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The students are required to complete the PADI medical statement, and if they marked any of the enumerated conditions they must obtain physician approval to participate in the class. Gilbert answered "no" to all questions regarding behavioral health problems.

She passed three of five written tests and a water skills test but was required to retake certain written tests. She never scheduled them. Then, while practicing diving skills, she became frightened and would not complete the session. A couple of weeks later, same thing, only this time she began to cry and failed to complete the lesson.

A family member called Milliken to reschedule pool sessions and told him that Gilbert had a learning disability. Milliken said she could not continue unless she obtained clearance from her physician. Milliken contacted both PADI and DAN, and they concurred. Milliken told Gilbert that if she obtained her physician's approval, his wife (a divemaster) would work personally with her.

Instead of physician's approval, Gilbert presented a letter of recommendation from her high school counselor and a letter signed by both her high school psychologist and principal, saying she was able to participate in the scuba class. That wasn't enough for Milliken, and he did not allow her to continue.

So what's a girl to do? She filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, claiming that Milliken had denied her training because of her learning disability and that he had unlawfully discriminated against her based on her mental handicap. The commission dismissed her complaint, but she appealed.

Last fall, the Court threw out the complaint. Thankfully. Had she prevailed, every dive operation in the industry might have to keep an eye out for the next frivolous action.

Emily Gilbert v The Department of Human Rights, and Above & Under Water, Inc., 2003 WL 22240557 (Ill.App. 1 Dist.) Sept. 30, 2003.

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