Skateboarding while blind: When technology replaces sight

Saturday, June 15, 2019
Skateboarding while blind: When technology replaces sight
A degenerative disorder left skateboarder Justin Bishop blind at the age of 25, but he doesn't let his disability stop him from pursuing his dream.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Justin Bishop was on track to become a professional skateboarder when a rare disorder left the Las Vegas native visually impaired at the age of 25.

Bishop was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8.

"It's a degenerative eye condition where you're slowly losing your vision," said Bishop."I just stopped skateboarding and I had to learn how to be blind."

Around the age of 30, Bishop started working for an organization in Las Vegas that helps teach children with autism how to skateboard. That's when he rediscovered his passion for skating.

"I fell in love with skateboarding all over again," Bishop said.

Zappos, along with Not Impossible Labs, teamed up in 2018 to develop technology that would help Bishop navigate skate parks and the world through the use of sound.

"I use my cane to find out what's in front of me and I use the speakers to help me out with precise timing and gaps and coping, so it just elevates my skateboarding to where I want to push it," said Bishop.

Bishop tested out the sonic speakers at the 2019 Dew Tour.

"One of the coolest things about skateboarding is that anytime in life, if I fall, there are 20 people right there like, "Are you ok?" But when I'm here, no one is there, because everyone falls skateboarding so it just feels normal," he said.

Earlier this month, Justin secured three sponsors, Nixon, Electric and Element, allowing him to return to his passion for skateboarding.

Based in Venice, Not Impossible Labs hopes to make this technology available to any skate or terrain park in America.