Category: UTC

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.

Kevin Bate Paints

Kevin Bate is Chattanooga’s humble, quirky, and paint-covered yes man.

 

Bate moved to Chattanooga in 2005 in search of an older home, full of character and potential. This led him to the Highland Park neighborhood on McCallie Avenue, which at the time, was ripe with crime and boarded up storefronts. The neighborhood lacked life, color, and was deemed the “bad part of town.” As depressing as the neighborhood seemed, Bate questioned how such a place made its residents feel. He saw this as an opportunity to breathe life back into a part of Chattanooga that had been forgotten and overlooked. Bate picked up his paintbrush and quite literally began to recolor his town. His initial goal was to give his neighborhood a sense of pride and to draw more public attention to an area that he quickly grew to love.

Bate started painting large murals on old, dilapidated buildings that lined the streets of McCallie Avenue. He was an instant success. Chattanooga natives, who previously sped through the neighborhood, were stopping and taking pictures in front of his murals. An area that was once avoided was now a destination. The City of Chattanooga and various business owners wanted more from Bate. He started doing commission murals, including “The Fallen Five,” that are now iconic Chattanooga staples.

Bate has an original artistic style that is easily recognizable all over the city. He uses implied lines and abstract shapes that force the viewer’s brain to see a face; they make people stop in the midst of their busy days and just look. Beautification was Bate’s goal. Now, after being an established Chattanoogan, Bate has poured his heart and talent back into the art community. He states, “I’d like to be the person to put more local artists to work.” Bate knows how it feels to be an aspiring artist, living off mac n’ cheese and criticism. Therefore, he wants to inspire local artists to pursue their talents by collaborating with him on large projects to continue to paint this city.

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Collecting Stories of Chattanooga

Story Corps preserves human history through the oral storytelling of its participants. With a travel trailer converted into a recording studio, Story Corps road trips to 10 cities around the country to record and broadcast the stories of local residents. This year, Story Corps has partnered with WUTC to showcase the untold histories of Chattanooga. Participants can tell anystory they want, and it can be told alone or with a partner.

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Singer Songwriter Series

Through a series highlighting young singer songwriters, Rising Rock Media decided to showcase the musical talents that hide in Chattanooga. With genres ranging from folk, americana, and rock, each musician creates a wide variety of talent that ought to be brought to light. This series focuses on each musician with a music video of Spencer Denning’s song “Pen Pals,” Rachel Smith’s recording of “Wedding Blues,” and Jamesen Rees’s recent spotify released song “The Weight of Change.” Through sharing each of these artists musical talent, Rising Rock attempts to bring about focus on the talent right on UTC’s campus.

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