A Different Perspective

In a world where visual cues are key to interaction and accessibility, some people have to do without it.  Adam Hixson, a 42-year-old Tennessee native, is all too familiar with this issue. When Hixson was 32 years old, his optometrist told him that he had about a year until he would lose one-hundred percent of his vision. Hixson was understandably confused, frustrated and scared.  When asked what he misses the most about having his vision, Hixson stated, “Used to, when I could drive, if I wanted to go somewhere, I got in the car and went, I didn’t rely on other people. Since I went blind, I have to rely on everybody to get places.”

He goes on to explain that blindness is often a very isolating disability. His main interactions involve his daughter, Madison, who lives with him in their off-campus apartment. “There’s some times that I’ve asked when I get twisted and turned around, I could hear someone walking towards me, and I’d be like, ‘Excuse me!’, ‘cause I was trying to ask them exactly where I was at. They would speed up and walk faster like they were scared of me or something. So, things like that make you feel more alone.” While Adam explains that some students are too nervous to approach him, he goes on to say that most students are very friendly and will often say hello and occasionally ask if he needs assistance. However, what most people do not understand is that sometimes an action that may traditionally be considered helpful or polite may not actually be helping a person who is blind.

Bryon Kluesner, the Adaptive Technology Coordinator for UTC’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) has worked with Adam since he first started at UTC in 2018. He works closely with professors to ensure that any extensions or accommodations that might make Adam’s coursework easier are given. Kluesner explains the danger of assumptions when it comes to disabilities. “I think a lot of people who don’t understand disabilities are typically very sympathetic and empathetic,” but Kluesner states that often this empathy leads to people assuming that they know the best way to help.  He says that often people think that something as simple as opening a door is helpful, when in actuality, if you are not verbally explaining the action to that person, it can actually put them in harm’s way, rather than help the situation.

Many people with impaired or total loss of vision are taught from an early age how to adapt to situations that are made more challenging by the obstacle of eyesight. While Adam is an exception to this, having lost his vision at 33, he has still learned methods and tactics for navigating the world around him. It is crucial that people seek to have a more fundamental understanding of disabilities like blindness, so that we can better interact with people like Adam. There is no reason that blindness should be a hindrance to positive social interaction, when in reality, both sides have something to learn from each other. 

Meet the Storytellers

Savannah Champion

Savannah Champion is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in Communication.  She is a writer, planner and is proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite. She loves performing Shakespeare and wants to help organizations form an intentional connection with their target audience. Contact her at lxj575@mocs.utc.edu.

The Hart Gallery


The Hart Gallery community shines bright, as people express a deep level of comradery as their hearts are filled, while their stomachs satisfied. 

As this gallery aids these artists emotionally and provides a safe haven for them, their goal is to also aid the artists financially. Cassie Terpening, the Volunteer Coordinator, explains that the Hart Gallery also provides another program, where they plan on paying their artists to build frames and to do other work around the gallery. 

The gallery’s main source of aid to the community is to provide all of the supplies needed to create art. The Hart Gallery also provides their community of artists the platform to sell their art, in the heart of Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Dennis Williams’ voice cracks as he said, “The Hart Gallery has showed me that my artwork is actually worth something. It makes me feel worthy of living. It picks my heart up.” 

Williams continues to show gratitude as he explains how creating art has helped him. Williams has been an artist at the Hart Gallery for over 2 years. He does not view himself as a good artist, but, somehow, he continues to sell his drawings of cats.

“It lifts my spirits up,” he exclaims. “The Hart Gallery has open doors, and it makes me feel like I am worth more than I think I am worth.” 

The Hart Gallery has become a second or third home for Williams, and he describes that the community accepts him for who he is. 

The Hart Gallery is a place that is welcoming to all, the homeless, and non-traditional communities, which includes single mothers, veterans suffering from ptsd, the disabled and many more. They seek to “establish a relationship with their artists that will help them help themselves to a life of stability and self-worth.”

Meet the Storytellers

Lorenzo Pickett

Lorenzo Pickett is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who majors in Communication. He has experience in guest services and has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years. Lorenzo’s passion is storytelling, creating art and showing genuine love and loyalty to those around him. He can be contacted at qfv861@mocs.utc.edu.

Vintage Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel is a 22-year-old photographer and new mother. She manages her own photography business known as Vintage Kaitlyn Photography where she focuses on weddings, elopements, and portraits while also balancing the life of motherhood. She has always had a love for the 1970s and country music. Johnny Cash is among her favorites. She incorporates these vintage styles into her photographs and further into her lifestyle.

Kaitlyn is a new mother to Scout Orion Witzel, who was born on October 13, 2019, but being a mother is not a new experience for her. She is the stepmother to Sabrina and Preston who are the children of her husband, Allen Witzel. Kaitlyn grew up in Grundy County, and now resides with her family in Cleveland, Tennessee, where they live in their barn-turned-wedding venue. Their home is an extension to her family’s venue business where they also manage a farm with lots of animals at the location.

On top of managing her own business, shooting photography and being a mother to three children, she also takes care of her family’s many dogs. She has a big heart for her puppy named Roxy. Even amidst Kaitlyn’s busy life, she balances her work and motherhood with ease while maintaining true to herself and her lifestyle.

To view some of her work, visit vintagekaitlynphoto.com

kaitlyn poster2

Meet the Storyteller

Marielle Echavez

Marielle Echavez is a senior studying Communication and Psychology. She is both a staff writer and photographer for the University Echo but is most passionate about videography. She plans to pursue video production post-graduation. Some of her work is displayed on @mariellejaimedia on Instagram and can be contacted at  wcb788@mocs.utc.edu.


Cup of Culture

With over 50 local coffee shops in the Scenic City alone, coffee has become its own subculture that has spread and affected the ambience of Chattanooga. Not only do these shops act as a social space for the spread of art and ideas, but many have their hand in community outreach as well. 

Continue reading “Cup of Culture”

The Heart of Dixie

Dixie Heiss, a 30 year old woman from Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, found out at 12 weeks she was going to be a mother. Due to medical issues she was told she could never have children so this baby boy was a miracle in her eyes. She feared complications with the birth, but nevertheless continued doing all the right things to ensure her baby boy would be healthy. Unfortunately, Dixie started experiencing a lot of pain six months into the pregnancy and then gave birth prematurely at 26 weeks. Her new baby boy weighed 1 lb. and 15 oz. and was placed in Erlanger’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Dixie wanted to be with her baby boy, CJ, every step of the way but lived almost an hour away from Erlanger hospital. Hotels were not an option because of expenses, so she came across Chattanooga’s very own Ronald McDonald House. Ronald McDonald House provides private bedrooms, showers, health products, toiletries, and food to families who have children in intensive care. Dixie lived in Ronald McDonald House for three months while CJ was being taken care of by Erlanger’s NICU staff. After being in the NICU for 82 days, CJ was finally discharged then weighing 5 lbs. and 14 oz.

Continue reading “The Heart of Dixie”