Blind Skateboarder on Importance of ‘Adaptive Sports’
with Dan Mancina of Keep Pushing, Inc.
What are “adaptive sports?” Hear from Dan Mancina, a blind skateboarder, who is championing an effort to combat stigma and discrimination facing athletes with disabilities.
Mancina, Founder of Keep Pushing, Inc., joins host Tetiana Anderson to share how he’s changing perceptions about disability — and why he’s promoting the inclusion of adaptive skateboarding at the Paralympic Games in 2028.
October 29, 2021
Anderson: Skateboarding made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games as the world's top skaters showcased their incredible skills with complicated board flips and jumps to impress the judges. Currently, efforts are under way to expand skateboarding -- specifically, adaptive skateboarding -- hopefully, to the 2028 Paralympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Adaptive sports are gaining popularity, combating stigma and discrimination of athletes with disabilities. Dan Mancina is part of the adaptive-sports movement. He is founder of Keep Pushing Inc., and Dan is a blind skateboarder. Dan, thanks so much for being here.
Mancina: Thank you, Tetiana. Very happy to be here.
Anderson: So, I know that skateboarding, which is something that you've done for many, many years, is also something that brought you out of a pretty difficult place. Explain what was happening when your relationship with the sport transformed and what happened that made you believe that this was also a way for others who are differently abled to have forward motion in their own lives?
Mancina: Absolutely. So, yeah, I was born with a hereditary disease called R.P., or retinitis pigmentosa, and I've kind of slowly lost my vision throughout my life. It didn't really affect me till about my mid-20s. I'm 34 now, but that's when it started to kind of have an effect on my day-to-day life. And I noticed this difference in the way that people talked to me and treated me and kind of all those things you hear about the stigma and the pity and the -- just a change inside. I realize that I am still the same person, I'm still Dan Mancina. So, skateboarding kind of helped me regain my footing, as far as regaining that confidence in life, being comfortable as a visually impaired or blind person. And I noticed kind of the impact that it had on others, as well, to help that shift and change all that. So I was kind of inspired to, hopefully, share that with the world and other vision-impaired and blind people.
Anderson: It's amazing, and I know that that confidence really helped you develop a skating style that was all your own. So I'm wondering if you can tell us what that's all about and also what sort of accessibility requirements that you had to come up with, not only for yourself, but that others could benefit from, as well.
Mancina: Absolutely. Really, it's using every other sense that I have -- you know, obviously, aside from vision, using my hearing and using my feel, touch, you know, using anything in the environment that I can to help orientate myself and get myself to whatever obstacle that may be. My cane -- the white cane -- is my number-one tool. Using that to help find obstacles and help orientate myself and line myself up, and then also using my free hand to actually feel and touch obstacles with that hand while I'm actually riding. And then, you know, like I said, using the sounds. So, that might be speakers. And then those who actually have some residual vision or remaining vision, using a good contrast -- you know, dark-to-light obstacles -- like a dark obstacle and a light ground -- light-colored ground. And then lights and stuff like that, as well. Anything we can to help orientate yourself. So, incorporating all of that in the plan for Keep Pushing and an adaptive park, as well.
Anderson: And you know, those textured grounds, those wheelchair ramps, making a difference for a lot of people. I know that you are using this nonprofit for that very reason so that that everybody can benefit. But what's the sort of ultimate mission here? Where are you going with all this?
Mancina: Yeah, so, the whole underlying idea is just pushing back against the stigma and those... Just the way people view the visually impaired, you know, there can be very low expectations from much of the world. So, pushing back against that and showing the world that we are capable and really just inspiring, hopefully, you know, children and adults who are visually impaired to do whatever it is that they actually want to do and not be guided or pushed towards something that, you know, somebody else might have an idea that they're capable of or what they should do. So just taking control of your life and being, you know, as positive and just the best person that you can be.
Anderson: So, Dan, this isn't just about building skate parks for you. You are a member of USA Skateboarding Adaptive Committee, and that organization really is about raising awareness, creating visibility for the sport. How are you working to put this sport in the forefront?
Mancina: That's right. You nailed it. It's raising awareness through my social media that I have, reaching out and connecting kind of all of our -- all of the adaptive riders out there. And then, hopefully, gaining more eyes so that we can gain more sponsorship, because one of the barriers is actually getting the visually impaired to these contests. Having the money to actually get there, hotels, flights, all that stuff. So, more eyes on the sports means more contests, means more money. And that's a big step towards getting adaptive skateboarding in the actual Paralympics.
Anderson: How important would the shift, the movement to put skateboarding in the Paralympics be for, you know, the adaptive-sports movement in general, for people living with disabilities, and for the sport in general?
Mancina: Yeah, I think it's really about just those who are visually impaired or those who are disabled having the opportunity to even try whatever it is they want to try, whether it be baseball, football, or skateboarding. Seeing that on that level makes it visible to the whole world. So just having that opportunity is crucial. You know, much of the vision-impaired community has a lack of opportunity. So this just helps give that chance to those kids to do whatever it is that they may want to do.
Anderson: And build that confidence. Dan, if people want to find out more about Keep Pushing, about you, where can they go online?
Mancina: Thanks. Yeah. It would be just keeppushinginc.com. And you can get everything you need to know about the building of the adaptive skate park and how to contact me.
Anderson: Dan Mancina of Keep Pushing Inc., thank you for being here.
Mancina: Thank you, Tetiana. Appreciate it.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. As always for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, just log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.