The following post was written by Mattie (they/them), a college freshman, aspiring author, avid braille reader, and LGBTQ+ advocate living with a visual impairment. In this blog post Mattie shares their story of perseverance and strength as they continue to find themselves and everything they are capable of. Mattie has a huge heart and passion for helping others. Thank you to VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement for introducing us to Mattie!
Who Am l?
Hello there, I am Mattie a 18 year old University at Buffalo student studying in the Health & Human Services Field. I live in Buffalo, NY. I was diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy at 14 months old. I am also color blind. On the side I am a writer currently working on my first
book! Exciting times for sure. When I am not writing or in class, I am a LGBTQ+ advocate who loves to work and build a better future for everyone. But anyway, enough about me. Let's talk about my story and the message it holds behind it.
Do Not Listen To Setbacks
Growing up as a person with a visual impairment isn't always easy. From a young age I had been told I would not graduate high school or get a NYS regents diploma. Teachers and many others always offered me a way out of an event or assignment if they thought I couldn't do it because I am Legally blind. They would worry about me whenever I was alone or if I tried to do something by myself. The fact though was that I could do a lot on my own. I never let that hold me back even from a young age and still refuse to even now. Letting people make decisions for you only holds you back or physically hurts your mind emotionally.
My parents never held me back or told me I couldn't do something. Someone should never tell you that you cannot do something because they think you cannot. I always learned you should give it a try and truly decide if you can or cannot do something. Even when I was growing up I
did it all. Not for any reason except knowing I would not feel good if I didn't try or thought I couldn't because I am blind.
Nothing Held Me Back
Like I mentioned before at 14 months old I was diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy. That introduced my parents and me to a whole new world. They had never had any experience raising a child with a disability. As I grew up my mother researched tirelessly and found services which helped me to grow not only with time but as a person. Eventually I was introduced to an organization called VIA (Visually Impaired Advancement). I truly never understood how much a simple organization could do when I was younger. I was able to have opportunities that I would not normally have as a visually impaired student or person in the work field. I was introduced to things like braille and orientation mobility services. As I grew further and into high school I was determined to prove everyone wrong. I broke the stone walls down and went for things they said I couldn't. Not only did I become a school leader along with graduating with honors and regents, I was able to show them that my disability was not going to hold me back. I then was early accepted to the University of Buffalo and so many other things that changed my life, but it wasn't about the achievements to me. It was about proving that nothing would hold me back.
I know what I have said above is all good but sometimes there are struggles. I will say learning to accept my disability as just another part of who I am was not easy at first. I was somewhat embarrassed for a long time. I was scared to be judged for my glasses or for my cane. I was afraid I would not make friends. None of that was true though. As I grew up people began to treat me just like everyone else. It just required me to find the right friends. I'm now in college and have made tons of amazing memories and have the best parents and friends I could ask for. Breaking the stone walls that blocked my path led me to meeting those most amazing people and the best opportunities and I am so glad I did not let anything hold me back. I didn't do this just to prove to myself that I was capable, but to show others that they could do the very same thing.
You Can Do The Same
My message here is not just to show what I have done but to tell you that you too can do anything you put your mind to. While you may have a disability, that cannot stop you. You decide your future and not anyone else and I know that it may not always seem easy when you feel a step behind everyone else but the truth is it just makes it more rewarding in the end. While you not only did what you were told you couldn't, you also proved wrong anyone who said your disability would hold you back. While you may be far on your journey or it has just begun, I want you to be proud of who you are and take every day by storm and create a better world around you. Blindness cannot hold a person back by force, though it may sometimes look that way.
I am so incredibly grateful to share my story with everyone. My story is always one I love to share as a positive note about growing up with my disability. Even though I am blind It never ever held me back at all and I hope my story is a light for those who need it.
~ Mattie LaFratta