Faythann Fallon has a very rare genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (O.I.) or Brittle Bone Disease, characterized by bones that are more susceptible to fractures or breaks than those who do not have the disorder. She entered the world with broken bones and has spent much of her life in and out of hospitals. However, as Fallon puts 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.”
Fallon thanks her parents for her fierce independence. She and her dad both have O.I. and are wheelchair users. “He and my mom both wanted me to grow up without always being afraid. If I wanted to do something, they never stopped me. They’d figure out a way for me to do it,” she said. “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.”
Fallon chose a media communications major, she said, because it combines the three fields that she loves most: writing, television and film. Even more, these fields will allow her to impact the portrayal of people with disabilities in the media.
“You don’t see a lot people in wheelchairs in films and television, and when you do, what is being represented isn’t the reality I know and experience,” she said. “Characters in wheelchairs appear to be trapped or confined, when really the wheelchair gives you mobility, freedom and independence.”
There’s also an atmosphere of pity around people in wheelchairs or they are elevated to paragons of inspiration, she said. “I don’t think film or television has ever characterized disabled people as normal, everyday people,” she said.
During her last two years at RIC, Fallon was a prolific content writer for Odyssey Online, a social media platform where more than 15,000 young millennials write long-form articles and create videos on what matters to them and shares them across their own social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.
As a blogger, Fallon was able to use her writing prowess to clear up misinformation about the disabled community. What makes her blog so appealing for readers is her eye-opening insights and her ability to find humor. Each week, she submitted articles and videos about her personal experiences with O.I. and addressed issues relevant to all people with disabilities. She also commented on pop culture, film, music and college life.
At RIC, Fallon was involved in writing screenplays, television episodes and commercials as well as shooting videos. “I’ve been assigned more video projects than papers,” she said. “I love making videos, from pre-production to post-production.” One of the television episodes Fallon wrote, titled “Always Sitting,” was entered into the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts competition. “Always Sitting” is about a young woman in a wheelchair and her experiences living and working in New York.
Though she didn’t win the competition, Fallon said the faculty in RIC’s media communications program have taught her a lot about reaching different audiences through numerous platforms, including television, radio, speechwriting, speechmaking and the Web.
“I’ve learned how to research, compose and analyze media. I’ve learned how to run audio equipment and equipment you’d find in a TV studio control room. Sometimes it would be hard because the tripod would be taller than I am, but my classmates were amazing and always helped me figure out a way to get a certain shot. If I couldn’t film a scene, they figured out a way for me to be involved, whether it be by directing the shot or editing the video.”
Fallon will be looking into paid internships in Providence after graduation. She also intends to learn how to drive. The 22-year-old graduates summa cum laude and was honored with the Communication Achievement Award for her scholarship and significant contributions to the Department of Communications.