The 54-year-old Frankston adventurer has skydived and bungee jumped, climbed rocks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, flown in a hot-air balloon and snow, jet and water skiied.
Scuba diving has long been on her bucket list. Last week she spent an hour in the shallow waters of Ricketts Point marine sanctuary, thanks to a support team of seven including her Auslan touch interpreters and dive instructor Mike Letch, founder of the Disabled Divers Association.
Ms Lawson was tethered to a scuba hose, her tank floating separately so she could explore and sign freely.
She held starfish and kelp and urchins, as touch interpreter Bill Hynes — also deaf, and a qualified diver — described everything to her, in water up to three metres deep and 200 metres offshore.
Mr Letch said Ms Lawson’s perception of her surroundings, through tactility, was incredible to witness.
“She was so much more in tune with a whole lot of stuff going on than the rest of us,” he said.
“She’s super switched on, super intelligent. We want her to become a regular next year, now that we know how it can be done.”
Back on shore, Ms Lawson — her grin as wide as that harbour bridge she’s climbed — declared the experience “amazing”.
“I wish I was a seal, then I could stay in the water all day,” she said.
“I was pretty nervous before going in, but it was incredible. I was so determined to breathe properly and ignore the waves.
“I could feel the rocks and the shells, and tried hard to understand what the fish being described to me was [a leatherjacket, understandably hard to sign underwater].
“I hope to do it again, if the fish like me enough, and Mike and his team don’t mind doing it again.”
Organising her dive took months of planning and could only happen thanks to Mr Letch’s special training in disability diving that he learnt in the US. He and his fellow volunteers have taken out people with paraplegia, quadriplegia and even cerebral palsy.
“It just goes to show that for people with a disability, the ocean’s a great equaliser,” he said.
“Heather proved that today. It also shows that you can change people lives, but they change yours as well.”
By Theresa Murphy for Frankston Weekly