The following post was written by Frankie Ann, a remarkable young woman, children's book author, educator, and advocate for the blind and visually impaired community. In this post, Frankie Ann shares the power of saying "yes" and how her newfound confidence positively impacted her sight loss journey and helped her thrive in all aspects of life!
When I was three months old, I was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia, a condition that resulted in blindness.
Basically that’s just a really fancy way to say that I have poor distance vision, no peripheral vision or depth perception, nystagmus (dancing eyes), light sensitivity, and degrees of night blindness. I read large print, only use a cane in certain scenarios (I didn’t even get a cane until I was sixteen), and didn’t read any braille until very recently.
My journey has been one of constant fluctuation. When I was young, I thought nothing of my vision impairment. I had wonderful parents who didn’t shelter me or hold me back from exploring the world around me. I played tee-ball when I was four. That same year they signed me up for dance classes. My dad taught me how to ride a bike. They didn’t know if I would succeed in these activities, but they believed in giving me the chance to try. I had an amazing Teacher for the Visually impaired who taught me how to advocate and accommodate. And because of all of their love and support, I was an optimistic, confident, enthusiastic little lady who had big dreams and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way....
...and then came the teenage years. As I entered the ever emotional adolescent phase, the way I saw the world began to change in more ways than one. Throughout my elementary schooling, I rarely used any accommodations. I had large print books and used enlargement software on my laptop. And though I had been taught skills to accommodate, I felt like I didn’t need anything special to help me get by. I thought I could just find a way to make it work. As an avid reader, I always had a book in my hand- regular print book that is. I got along fine and as I mentioned earlier, I was confident and proud to be me. As the academic workload increased in high school, I found that the methods I had been using to accommodate were no longer cutting it. I started getting sick regularly; feeling nauseous, vomiting, having intense headaches. I did not want to accept that this was because of my vision. But it was. That was the truth.
At the time, I was reluctant to fully take the teachings and recommendations of my Teachers for the Visually Impaired to heart. I didn’t want to be the girl taking street crossing classes and using a cane while the rest of my friends were getting their licenses. I didn’t want to be the one who always had to sit in the front row of class, using big telescopes and magnifying glasses to help her see. I had gotten along fine, visibly hiding my vision impairment from others, and the idea of having these visible identifiers that labeled me as blind was a really difficult thing to accept.
Fast Forward to today. I am so proud to say that my life has come full circle. I spent my undergrad years learning to fully love and accept myself- blind eyes and all! I stopped beating myself down and hiding myself away. I stopped saying ‘no’ to myself and started to say “YES” to being exactly who I am. And that has made all of the difference.
I feel like that little girl again- the girl who said “yes” to tee-ball, bike rides, and dance class. Now as an adult, I say “yes” to new adventures and opportunities.
I said “yes” to moving from a small town in Connecticut to none other than New York City. The city gives me a sense of autonomy and independence that helps me continue to feel confident in myself.
I said “yes” to choosing to further my education and get my Masters. By studying Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and Orientation and Mobility, I hope to show other blind individuals skills to help them succeed. I hope that by sharing my experiences with them, they may feel empowered to keep going and say “yes” to their goals.
I said “yes” to working with an amazing company, Elle Jones Casting (www.ellejonescasting.com or @ellejonescasting on instagram). EJC works to increase disability representation in media, create accommodation plans for disabled actors and/or crew members for film and television, and bring the idea that “everyone has a role” to fruition. I could not be more grateful to be a part of such an important company in a field that I love. I am proud to help professionals with disabilities succeed both in front of and behind the camera with my incredible team, and to rock our company name on my custom braille shirt!
I said “yes” to writing a book. A book for anyone who has had a dream and has had someone say “no” to that dream. A book that I am so happy to be able to share with the next generation of dreamers, to inspire them to say “yes” to their dreams and rise above those who tell them “no”. A book that just so happens to be called ‘Yes”. And I am so excited to get my custom braille mask with the title written on it for my first book signing event this May!
"Yes" and "No". Two of the simplest, shortest, but most powerful words. One has the power to lift a person up; to motivate them to achieve their dreams, to push them to never give up. The other has the power to tear a person down, to fill them with doubt, to influence them to stop trying. "Yes" and "No".
By saying “yes”, I have lifted myself up. I have motivated myself, with the support of others who say “yes”, to achieve my dreams. I have pushed myself to never give up. I hope my journey inspires you to do the same. Because you deserve it!
Every piece of you is something to celebrate. Just because we are blind, it does not mean we do not have vision. We have a vision of who we are and who we want to be. And it is vital that though we may lose our physical sight, we mentally never lose sight of what makes us who we are.
So say YES! be your own cheerleader. Be your own Yes Man. Keep dreaming and stay ambitious. Say “yes” to all of the beautiful things life has to offer. Say “yes” to being YOU!
~ Frankie Ann
To learn more about Frankie Ann and to read her new book "Yes" visit:
Amazon Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Yes-Dreamer-Frankie-Ann-Marcille/dp/1950323382/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8