Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 17, 2014

A new set of wheels

Flatwoods woman driving specially equipped van

Lee Ward
For The Independent

FLATWOODS — Mariah Scott is tooling around town in her new black Toyota Sienna which she received Jan. 3, thanks to hard work on the part of her friends and family and the generosity of the community, as well as her own determination.

Scott, who was born with no arms or legs — the result of a disorder called tetra-amelia — needed wheels. The 22-year-old student at Morehead State University’s Ashland campus relied on her grandmother, Edna Callihan, to get her where she needed to go.

But Scott, who had earned her driver’s license, had hoped to become more independent and acquire the specially equipped van she needed to drive herself.

After passing the written test, she traveled to Fayette County to learn to drive such a van under the supervision of Katy Greene of the University of Kentucky Driving Program through the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. She received a perfect score on her driving test.

Modifications to the van were provided by the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and are valued at $96,000.

Scott and her family raised the money to buy the basic van. Fannin Family Auto matched $10,000 of the $16,000 they raised, including what was raised at an event in Flatwoods last fall. A family friend contributed an additional $4,000 to meet the goal. Scott will be responsible for maintenance and insurance.

Since receiving the van, Scott said she has been hitting the road every chance she gets.

“I’ve been picking up my friends and driving around,” she said. “I took my cousin to tumbling lessons and went to the Huntington Mall.”

Callihan said she has ridden with Scott on the way to restaurants, shopping and visiting family members to show off the van.

“She does great,” Callihan said. “I’m totally comfortable with her driving, probably more with her than with her brother when he got his license. She’s very cautious.”

It’s a new experience for Scott. “It’s weird to be able to just go when I want and not worry about someone taking me or picking me up,” Scott, who said she enjoys driving her friends around, said. “But I always have to check in with Granny.”

Callihan said it was an adjustment for her, too. “It’s a big change for me not to have to take her everywhere,” she said. “This is a big milestone in her life.”

The van has arrived just in time: Scott, who made straight As in the elementary/special education program last semester, said she will do her student teaching next semester.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.