Model: Mariana Fernandez-Soto
Marriage & Family Therapist
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, with a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). This is another way of saying that I have had a visual impairment since birth which will probably get worse as I age, and there is little that I can see without the help of a magnifying device.
I did not know anyone else with disabilities while I was growing up. However, I never felt different, and I owe that feeling of acceptance in great part to my parents, who exposed me to visually challenging situations from a young age. They enrolled me in mainstream schools, signed me up for swimming, piano, and dance lessons, and sent me off to study abroad. Those experiences helped me feel “normal” and allowed the people in my life to see more of me than my disability.
More importantly, my experiences taught me to focus on the things that I could do and enjoy without my sight. I realized that I love listening to others and helping them feel valued and supported, and that I could make a living out of it. After earning my master’s degree at the University of Miami in marriage and family therapy, I fulfilled my dreams of opening a private practice. Every day I help individuals, couples, and families work through their own unique struggles.
Photographed by Irina Lawton