When Brett Devloo lost his vision at age 16, everyone told him he could kiss skateboarding goodbye. Brett’s father was so worried that he even threatened to snap his board; but that wasn’t enough to stop Brett from doing what he loved.
Now, at age 21, Brett is a blind skateboarder working to inspire others to follow their dreams. He goes by the nickname TBK – The Blind Kid.
“I used to get bullied a lot, and after I lost my vision I would be walking through the halls and I would overhear kids whispering, ‘There goes the blind kid.’” Rather than letting it tear him down, Brett decided to take ownership of TBK and run with it. He now has a TBK clothing company and donates a percentage of the profits to purchasing equipment for other visually impaired students in his hometown of Winnipeg.
Brett lost his vision to a DNA mutation called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, or LHON. One minute he was sitting in history class writing his notes, and the next minute he couldn’t see. LHON is an incredibly rare condition which currently has no cure. Brett has been left with only 2% vision, meaning he can see light but everything else is a blur. But he doesn’t let his visual impairment hold him back; he’s actually thankful for the road it has taken him on. “I feel like I’m doing way better things with my life since my vision loss than I ever imagined when I could see.”
So how does he still manage to skateboard? It has a lot to do with hearing, Brett says. He’ll listen as someone else ollies up to a box, and then from there he’s able to map out his own path from the sound of their wheels. Brett can even identify other people’s tricks by sound alone.
“I wasn’t going to let being blind stop me from doing what I love to do,” he says. “You see Brett, you see skating. That’s just how it’s always been.” Brett says his love of skating is driven by the independence and freedom it provides. Growing up, he didn’t feel cut out for team sports, and turned to skateboarding because it was something he could do on his own. After losing his vision, that independence hasn’t changed, Brett just does things his own way now. “It’s just so freeing. I don’t feel blind when I’m on my skateboard.”
Brett says he’s thankful for all of the amazing feedback he’s gotten since making his journey public through his YouTube channel. “I have people around the world who tell me I’m the reason they skateboard. And it’s really cool to hear that,” he says.
His goal is to encourage other visually impaired young people, as well as anyone else who is struggling, to keep pushing toward their goals. “My motto is: do things that don’t make sense.” Brett says, “If there’s anything that seems out of reach, no matter what you think is stopping you from doing what you have to do, just do it.”
If you’d like to learn more about Brett’s story, check out the video below.