RIC graduate Fallon seeks to shatter stereotypes

RIC graduate Fallon seeks to shatter stereotypes

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Faythann Fallon says she chose a media communications major because it combined the three fields she loves most: writing, TV and film. And more importantly, she emphasizes, the fields allow her to make an impact on the way disabilities are portrayed in the media.

“You don’t see a lot of people in wheelchairs in films and television, and when you do, what is being represented isn’t the reality I know and experience,” she says. “Characters in wheelchairs appear to be trapped or confined, when really the wheelchair gives you mobility, freedom and independence.”

“I don’t think film or television has ever characterized disabled people as normal, everyday people,” said Fallon.

Fallon, 22, of North Providence, graduated May 12 from Rhode Island College with a bachelor’s degree in media communications. She also studied gender and women’s studies. The North Providence High School graduate is the daughter of Brenda and John Fallon, and has two siblings, Kim Boory, 30, and Michael Boory, 28.

She has a rare genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, characterized by bones that are susceptible to fractures or breaks. She entered the world with broken bones and has spent much of her life in and out of hospitals. However, as Fallon sees it, “Those of us who have O.I. may have fragile bones, but we don’t have fragile spirits. Our motto is “Unbreakable Spirit.” Our disease may be rare, our community small, but we’re here.” 

During her final two years at RIC, Faythann was a prolific content writer for Odyssey Online, a social media platform where more than 15,000 young millennials write articles and create videos and share them across their own social networks. As a blogger, Fallon says she was able to use her writing ability to dispel misinformation about the disabled community. She said the best way for her to break stereotypes about people with disabilities is to get herself into the field and create characters who live out successful careers.

Too often, she said, the depiction of people with disabilities is that either they can’t live their best life or that their success is something that should be viewed as inspirational. The only way she enjoys discussing her own challenges, she said, is if she can talk about them in a way that helps someone else with their own.

Going into her college career at RIC, Fallon said she was scared of the experience and not sure how independent she would be, but she said the college was great with accommodations and allowed her to be as independent as possible.

One of the ways she wants to enhance her independence going forward is to learn how to drive this summer. Her father is also in a wheelchair with O.I. but learned to drive at age 16 using hand controls. She said learning to drive will give her more opportunity to find a job and see more of the world around her.

Fallon thanked her parents for her independence. She said her parents both wanted her to grow up without always being afraid.

“If I wanted to do something, they never stopped me,” she said. “They’d figure out a way for me to do it. As I grew older with my disease, I started to become more adventurous. I thank my friends for that. They’re always willing to help me try and experience the exciting parts of life.”

At RIC, Fallon was involved in writing screenplays, television episodes and commercials as well as shooting videos. One of the television episodes she wrote, titled “Always Sitting,” was entered into a competition. It’s about a young woman in a wheelchair and her experiences living and working in New York.

Though she didn’t win the competition, she said the faculty in RIC’s media communications program did an excellent job of teaching her how to reach different audiences through different platforms.

Fallon said she’ll be looking into paid internships in Providence. She graduated summa cum laude and was honored with the Communication Achievement Award for her scholarship and significant contributions to the Department of Communications.