WOMEN ON THE MOVE
As promised a couple of months ago, today, we are thrilled to share the sight loss story of Gabby Mendonca. Recently featured as our June Monthly Beauty, Gabby returns for the August edition of Women On The Move. Gabby is a beautiful person, a passionate self-made digital content creator, and a positive role model. Keep an eye on this young woman because she is going places.
Sight Stealing Tumor
I was born with my vision but at 18 months of age, developed a tumor on my optic nerve. I underwent several surgeries to try to remove the tumor, however, I lost my sight and became completely blind.
When I lost my sight, it took my family a while to adjust. As a young child, I was very energetic and self-reliant, so adjusting and accepting my disability was not difficult for me. This was very new to my mom, and at first, she needed to learn what resources I would need in order to succeed. After doing some research and getting involved in agencies that represented those with visual impairments, my mom was able to guide me.
I attended mainstream schools, and also participated in programs where I was able to connect with other blind individuals and continue to adjust to my disability. I learned how to perform daily tasks such as mobility, how to apply to jobs, and how to cook. Through these programs, I was able to grow as a person and learn more about how to live life with a disability. I also learned how to advocate for myself.
At the age of 5, I developed a passion for music and enrolled in a music school where I interacted with other blind individuals. To this day I am still passionate about music.
Life After High School
When it was time to apply for college, a million thoughts ran through my head. What if people don’t like me? How will I adjust to a new environment? What if my professors aren’t accommodating? I was very anxious.
When I finally applied to college I wanted to make a change. Being the first and only blind student on campus, I wanted to pave the way for any future blind students. After I adjusted to this new environment, I began working closely with the office of accessibilities and the dean of students to begin labeling different rooms around campus. Although this was a fun project, there were times when I felt very discouraged. I felt like there was so much more I should be doing and yet, felt very isolated on campus. At times, I felt like I didn’t have a voice and like something was wrong with me.
Being very social I was confused as to why I wasn’t making friends. It took me 2 years to realize that this was all new to everybody around me. I realized that people don’t know how to approach someone who is ‘different‘ from them. People continue to assume the unknown, and that is what makes them blind to reality. Not knowing what someone is capable of makes some people appear closed-minded.
As an upcoming senior, I am happy to say that now I have made many accomplishments. I have helped make my school more accessible, I won an emerging student leadership award, and performed at multiple events. I have joined some clubs and I have made some amazing friends. This is not to say that I don’t ever feel discouraged, but I feel as though I have made my mark at my college. I am forever grateful for my mom, who has been my rock throughout my life. Being a single parent, she put her dreams on hold, to make sure that my siblings and I achieve our goals. Therefore, my family and my disability have made me the person that I am today.
Continuing To Achieve Through Self-Love
Aside from the many accomplishments I made at college, I’ve made so many personal accomplishments. A year ago, I decided to start a YouTube channel. At first, I didn’t quite understand all of the concepts, I didn’t know what it meant to schedule videos, or how to be consistent. I wanted to start my channel because I wanted to help other blind individuals and use my voice to let them know they are not alone, digital creation is my passion.
On the other hand, self-love is very important to me. When I first started college, I didn’t know what it meant to practice self-love or how to even begin. I realized that, if I want to help others, I have to help myself. Although I was a very happy and energetic teen, I doubted myself a lot. I believe that mental health is very important and I am very proud of how far I have come. I have found creative outlets that have helped me to continue to take care of my mental health and love myself.
I can’t wait to continue on my journey and I am proud to be a confident blind young woman breaking down barriers.
Gabby’s Social Media Platforms:
- Beyond Sight Magazine Cover. Gabby is on the cover sitting on a wall wearing blue shorts, white tee, and silver sandals. The masthead is teal with “Beyond Sight Magazine” in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are 3 lines of white text that say “Auditioning for Bold, Blind, and Beautiful.” In the bottom right corner is a teal circle with an illustration of Abby rollerblading. She has on a black crop tank top complete with her logo on the front with black shorts, and gray & teal roller blades. And of course, Abby wouldn’t be Abby without her signature explosive hairstyle, and “Women On The Move” is yellow text under the circle.
- Cover by Daniel Lubiner