Alt Route is a Driving Force for Accessible Skateboarding
Q&A’s with Curtis Ruttle
Where are you from? What place do you currently call home and why?
I am from Calgary, Alberta. Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and we are known for the Calgary Stampede –“The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” In Calgary, you are still living in a major city, but you can drive an hour west and be right in the middle of the mountains.
What community/communities are you part of ?
I am part of the Vision Loss community, the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Foundation, the CNIB National Youth Council, the Calgary Skateboarding community, the Canadian Blind Hockey, and my school’s student council. In a lot of these communities I tend to take a leadership role and making a positive impact on said communities, because I believe “if you want something you have to go out and earn it, instead of waiting for someone to give it to you”. I stay very connected in sports communities through skateboarding and hockey because those are important things to have in our lives.
What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
I am passionate about helping out in the community and advocacy. In my spare time I enjoy playing sports, being outdoors, and photography. I also have recently been getting into videography and video editing. Growing up, I have always been involved in many different things. I always was that person who occasionally needed extra help and there were groups and organizations there to support me, so I have always been exposed to it and now I enjoy being able to help someone else.
My photo and video interests came after taking an option class at school, I was instantly hooked and stuck to photography and then later on realized that videography was not much different.
Tell us about your project!
When I started this project, I was fairly new to skateboarding as I had only been skateboarding for just around a year and a half. I was fortunate enough to have a local group who had already started the movement of accessible skateboarding. After my first time, I was instantly hooked and started to develop a relationship with Matt Janz, and the Skatebats program. I am lucky to have Matt as my partner and mentor where we have combined Alt Route and Skatebats to benefit the blind and visually impaired community in Calgary.
I started Alt Route in the summer of 2020 from grant opportunities through #RisingYouth that I learnt about through my involvement with the National Youth Council. AltRoute is dedicated to helping create a more accessible, inclusive, and safe skatepark environment for ALL visually impaired youth. We are able to do this by creating specific adaptations to the skatepark through hands on research. In our initial project we had a group of 5 individuals, and had one on one skate times. We initially had them skate / walk the park as it was, and then asked them for feedback on what was difficult, what helped, and what COULD help. From this feedback that we gathered, we were able to make adaptations. Some of our adaptations consist of: High visibility/contrast guide lines, transition markers, LED Lighting for a “Run way”, Tactilestrips, and we experimented with audio beacons as well.
In November we held a final showcase event, and were able to display our adaptations to the media, and surprise our participants with a fully accessible skatepark– where they were able to display all the learning that they had done! We have also been extremely fortunate to receive support/ sponsorships from, The Compound Calgary Skatepark, the CNIB Foundation, Ninetimes Calgary Skate Shop, Adidas, Newline Skateparks, Academy Skateboard collective, Professional Blind Skateboarder Dan Mancina, and Blind Skateboarder Justin Bishop. As well, we have been lucky enough to work with AMI (Accessible Media Inc) and they produced a 1 hour long documentary on my project.
This project has definitely grown much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and I am so thankful for the opportunity, and for all of the support we have received throughout this adventure. In July 2020 we held our second showcase event, this time in partnership with the City of Calgary –Parks and Recreation. As of writing this, we are currently working on our third project, at the Indoor Skatepark called The Compound. This is a Fall/Winter Skate camp where we work with our participants to improve skills and get more comfortable! I am looking forwards to growing this to an even bigger point in the future, and I hope you follow along with our journey.
How did the idea for this project come to you?
I attended an information session held by the CNIB and #RisingYouth (Cory Herc), and he proposed the question: “What do you miss doing from before COVID?”. And we got talking about sports, and adaptive sports, and all the programs I was a part of, and he thought that this was absolutely amazing. He suggested the project and I realized that it really was a great idea.
What was your motivation behind this project?
Having the opportunity to expand and grow in a new sport, but doing it in a more safe, and inclusive environment. Everything is always able to be adapted in some form, and sometimes you need to think outside the box.
How did your community react to your project?
We have had extraordinary reactions to this project, the skate community was instantly behind us and very supportive. We made 2 initial phone calls and from there everything took off. We had other local non-profits backing us, the owner of our local skate shop, and the owner of a private indoor facility that donated time and space. The families were also a huge factor, they allowed us to work with them, and they were more or less our test run group because we did not know if this was going to work as we had planned. They were patient and understanding with us and worked with us. The media were very amazing to work with and helped us express our story, they backed us from the beginning of when they heard about this. Our first event got a ton of media coverage and they showed us in such a positive light. We even had representatives from the City of Calgary contacting us because they wanted to help support us, in general, and help put something together with us. We have had extraordinary volunteers, willing to do so many things for us, drive us around to buy materials, film/edit videos, build our website, run live streams, help set up the parks each time, etc.
In retrospect, what was the impact of your project?
Our project has had a very positive impact on the community and our participants. It has given kids who may have wouldn’t tried skateboarding an opportunity to try it. The impact is what we expected because we wanted it to be a positive reaction and impact, but also no, because it “blew up” in our face, and took off much better than I ever expected it too. I expected it to be this little thing we were doing but it turned into something much bigger than ever expected.
How has the project impacted you in your everyday life?
This project has more or less changed my life from what it previously was. It has made me more busy (haha), opened up many more doors, I have taken more of a leadership role and that has worked into my life. I had to learn how to create budgets, run meetings, work with others, and many more things. This all even led to a partner nominating me for a City Of Calgary award in the Youth Category, which I won, because of this project. It also opened more doors, aside from what I previously mentioned, it allowed me to receive another grant through Rising Youth. Because of my original project they came to me and offered another grant to continue this project. I am also getting the opportunity to share this post with you (as the reader), and share my story.
Were there some bumps along the road or things you may do differently in the future?
I think I was pretty fortunate and had great team where everyone around me was really amazing, but sometimes we had some different ideas that didn’t necessarily work out as planned, such as audio beacons, and tactic strips. Although, we continued to experiment and found things that worked.
What would you say to a youth who is thinking about doing a #RisingYouth project?
I think people should absolutely go for it and apply for a #RisingYouth grant if they have a good idea. The #RisingYouth team is extremely easy to work with, they help you when you need with pretty much anything, they are always available to answer questions, and they have made this a very easy grant experience all around.