A dozen Calgary grade school students with visual impairments visited an indoor skateboarding park where they learned not only how to skateboard, but also left feeling empowered.

The session was offered by the Academy Skateboard Collective, a non-profit that aims to connect marginalized communities through skateboarding. The group has introduced skateboarding to some of Canada’s Syrian refugees and has set up programs in some Indigenous communities, too. This was its first time working with students with visual impairments.

The students, who were outfitted with all of the necessary safety gear, learned how the board works and how to position themselves for proper balance.

“I actually think skateboarding lends itself so well because so much (of it) is about feel and the experience and the texture of the park, the curves,” Everett Tetz, the founder of the Academy Skateboard Collective, told CTV Calgary.

Leading the students in their lesson was Dan Mancina, a professional skateboarder who lost his own vision seven years ago. He said a piece of advice from his doctor helped him deal with his diagnosis.

“Early in my vision loss, I kept asking what should I do, what should I go to school for or what can I do, and it’s just like he said: ‘Do whatever you want to do,’ and that’s exactly what you have to do,” Mancina said.

Radka Buriskova accompanied her eight-year-old son David, who couldn’t wait to get out into the skate park.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to try something new and I hope he will learn more about safety on a skateboard,” she said.

The teachers spent a lot of time in the classroom preparing their students for this field trip and they’re hopeful that activities such as this one can empower them to be more independent.

“Some were a little apprehensive,” said Stephanie Gee, a vision specialist with the Calgary Board of Education. “They’re like, ‘Skateboarding? I don’t know. I don’t know if we can.’ And we ask the question: ‘Why can’t you?’”