Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 31, 2020

Chattanooga State students meet disabilities head-on

Madison Cothern, who is getting ready to enter her senior year as a Hamilton County Collegiate High student at Chattanooga State Community College, has made overcoming obstacles her life goal.

Cothern developed hearing loss in both ears as a toddler. She was fitted with a bone anchored hearing aid, a surgically implanted device that allows sound waves to vibrate into her inner ear, enabling her to hear.

Although Cothern says the hearing aid has made a difference, hearing loss still impacts her daily life.

“Hearing loss can make school and social activities difficult – and sometimes impossible!” Madison says. “Also, not everyone is educated about hearing loss, or knows American Sign Language, so I encounter obstacles.”

Despite hearing loss and illnesses, Cothern excels. Following graduation in 2021, she plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she intends to major in secondary education and history.

Performing ballet both locally and nationally for six years, Cothern shares her love of dance and sign language with elementary students at Barger Elementary and other recreational centers around Chattanooga.

Named to the spring 2020 dean’s list, Cothern holds membership in Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Global Scholars Honors Program.

Cothern embraces volunteerism by taking on roles as a peer mentor, English tutor, dance instructor and anti-bullying advocate. National recognition for her volunteer work has come in the form of grants from Youth Service America’s Start a Snowball and Disney’s Friends for Change programs.

Within the community, Cothern received the Kids Who Show Courage award and was one of four recipients of the 2020 Black Girls Roar award.

The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated its 30th anniversary July 26. At Chattanooga State, the Disabilities Support Services office serves close to 400 eligible students who might require accommodations for a variety of disabilities.

Chattanooga State students requesting accommodations must self-disclose, provide appropriate documentation and meet with DSS staff to devise an accommodation plan.

Cothern receives CART services (Communication Access Realtime Translation) and note-taking assistance, while fellow DSS student Danielle Freeman, who has a vision and learning disability, is allowed extra time to take tests and receives large print handouts to see fonts more legibly.

Due to her initial undiagnosed struggles, Freeman had trouble completing simple tasks and understanding math, and dropped out of high school in ninth grade. After attaining her GED, she enrolled at Chattanooga State Dayton, and was fortunate to meet Jerry Hendrix, site director, who recognized a possible disability and referred her to DSS.

Like her counterpart, Freeman also was named to the spring 2020 dean’s list. She has learned to advocate for herself, but knows the DSS staff “has her back” if needed.

“They’re ready to help in any situation and have given me the confidence I needed to continue my education,” says Freeman, who will graduate in 2021 with a University Parallel degree in science and transfer to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to become a speech therapist.

“The degree for speech therapy requires a master’s degree, but with the skills I’ve learned at Chattanooga State, I feel like I can advocate for myself and achieve lasting success,” Freeman says.

“I tell students that accommodations are not special treatment, it’s their right under the law,” says Kristi Strode, DSS counselor.

To learn more about Disabilities Support Services, call 423 697-4452 or go to chattanoogastate.edu/disability-support-services.

Source: Chattanooga State Community College