Chatters' visual impairment is the result of albinism, a rare genetic disorder that effects the pigment of the skin, hair and eyes. Although her parents are dark-skinned African-Americans, her skin tone is much lighter and her hair is blonde. Because prenatal genetic testing was not available when her mother was pregnant, Chatters said she was a "big surprise" to her parents and jokes that her father probably wondered if she was truly his child.
"It was explained to my parents that I was albino and that meant that I had a lack of pigment," she said. "But what wasn't explained to them is that pigment is more important in our bodies than what we think."
Many albinos, including Chatters, suffer from visual impairments because the lack of pigment in the retinas causes them to have issues with light. Albinism also impacts the brain, causing fibers to cross. As a result, corrective vision surgery is not an option because the root of the visual impairment lies within the brain, not just the physiology of the eye.
Because her doctors did not know how bad her vision would get, Chatters started taking blind classes at a very young age and continued throughout her adolescence and college years. She was trained to read brail and use a mobility cane. This added to the bullying, she said.
"They were training me in school. I would be walking around the school with a blindfold on and using a cane and that just caused kids to target me even more," she said. "If they didn't know I was legally blind, and a lot of times they didn't, they knew then. I couldn't even try to fly under the radar. I would always beg to be trained outside of the school but they always said no."
When she wasn't dodging the constant harassment of her peers, Chatters was struggling with her academics. But not because she lacked the intelligence — she enrolled in kindergarten at the age of 3 and graduated high school at 17 — but because she could not receive the academic accommodations she needed.
Because of her visual impairment, Chatters had issues reading textbooks and copying notes from the blackboard. She had to work harder to read the material and stay on track with her studies. The accommodations she did receive varied from school to school but it wasn’t until she moved to Germany that she finally received all of the accommodations she needed. Those accommodations helped her with her studies and exposed talents she never knew she had.
"I really got into art when I was [in Germany] because my art teacher facilitated a ton of accommodations for me to be able to participate in the art class," Chatters said, adding that during her sophomore year, she was a silver medal finalist for an international art competition that spanned the European Union. "After that, I decided that I really wanted to go into fashion design and go to Parson's School of Design. I was on track to go there and I was really excited about it."