Meet Dan Mancina: The blind skateboarder changing perceptions toward disability
‘So many visually impaired people are guided by the sighted, and they do not know what we are capable of.’
After being diagnosed with retinal degenerative disease aged 13, Dan Mancina lost his sight at 22 years of age and began to forget about one of his great passions.
Dan had been skateboarding since he was seven but thought the rapid onset of blindness meant it was something he “simply did not do any more”.
With courage and time and time, however, he got back on his board and achieved much more besides.
The clip above was filmed recently, but in his early days without sight Dan says he could not even leave the house to walk around the block without someone there to prevent him getting lost. It also left him struggling with depression.
“Along with the vision loss and not skating any more and it being such a big part of my life, it left me lost,” he told the Press Association. “I had a huge void in my life both from my identity and my passion being lost.
“Slowly, with some training and starting to do the things that I had once done as a sighted person, I was able to regain my confidence.”
“Nothing had as large of an impact as skating did,” said Dan.
“Getting back on my board gave me the ability to have confidence in my blindness, to express myself again, and have the power to show people who I truly was in the way I wanted to be seen, as a skater.”
“For a while I thought I had to shape my life around my blindness,” Dan explains. “I was searching for what a blind person does, or can do, when in fact I needed to search for ‘what does Dan do?'”
In short, Dan is daring – a habit that goes beyond skating too.
He has shared footage of himself cross-country skiing, chopping firewood and riding roller-coasters to name but a few deeds it is difficult to imagine trying without sight.
“Without doing what I loved and wanted to do I would not have ever been happy and fulfilled in life,” said Dan.
His Instagram account is poignantly accompanied by the tagline “blind and changing how people see” and videos of him are widely shared online.
Just this month skating legend Tony Hawk shared his admiration for Dan’s achievements.
Favorite moment of our Detroit demo today: Dan Mancina's warmup 50/50 (yes, he's blind) pic.twitter.com/zzk64zQGu8— Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) June 9, 2018
Dan hopes to inspire others and even said in an interview with Red Bull that he aims to build a skate park designed for blind people.
He said it would use techniques he employs “like tactile things on the ground, audio speakers within objects to help orientate yourself and things hanging from the ceiling that can help let you know where you are.”
“To those who are going through similar issues as me, whether it is a physical disability or not I would just say to strive to not let that thing be what dictates who you are and what you do,” said Dan.
“Especially with blindness, so many visually impaired people are guided by the sighted, and they do not know what we are capable of, only we do.
“If I listened to the people around me I would never be able to achieve the things I have and will go on to achieve.”