Kristina Rhoades knows firsthand the benefits of an MV-1.
The Dawsonville resident and Brenau University alumna drives one of the vehicles, which in 2011 launched as the first factory-designed universally accessible vehicle.
Rhoades, who is in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury suffered when she was 10 months old, now has the ability to have her 3-year-old daughter, Kamryn, in her vehicle. That wasn’t possible for the first year of Kamryn’s life, when Rhoades had a different vehicle that had been converted for accessibility.
“It has given us our freedom and our independence,” Rhoades said.
Rhoades is also the national spokeswoman and a public relations representative for Mobility Ventures, traveling to about 30 cities across the country each year to promote the MV-1s.
Now with a ramp and plenty of space in her vehicle, Rhoades is able to pack up the car and take Kamryn on the road when she goes to various conferences, trade shows and media events in other states. She also feels safer with that extra space because she can pull off the road, move to help her daughter and never have to unlock or open her doors.
As a mother who is in a wheelchair, finding a vehicle that was so helpful was important.
“I’m passionate about doing what I can to spread the word,” Rhoades said.
She has promoted the MV-1s with her outgoing personality and passion for helping others in similar situations.
Previously, Rhoades worked as general manager at Brenau’s radio station, WBCX 89.1 FM. She earned her undergraduate degree in mass communication in 2008 and her master’s in organizational leadership in 2010, both at Brenau.
An event in January of this year featured Rhoades doing a demo of the MV-1 for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Rhoades, who had previously modeled and promoted products, got her start with her current job after working as a model with the MV-1s at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. She had a job offer by the end of the week.
It was a whirlwind beginning for Rhoades with Mobility Ventures. She said her daughter was on 33 airplanes before her first birthday.
One of the areas Mobility Ventures is investing in is taxis and transit. Rhoades has experienced in New York the poor taxi conditions for those in wheelchairs, basically having to sit in the trunk area beside a spare tire while in one of her best dresses on the way to a black-tie event.
She said accessible transportation is about “dignity,” in addition to “safety and reliability.”
Milton Martin Honda is the local dealer for MV-1s, with Tim Pledge selling them. Milton Martin General Manager Butch Miller is a friend of Rhoades. She introduced him to MV-1s, which she said have the most American-made parts of any car on the road.
“It’s personal to him,” Rhoades said. “He has a son who is in a wheelchair, and he really understands the needs that are out there for safe, accessible vehicles.”
Before MV-1s hit the market in 2011, drivers in wheelchairs had to rely on vehicles with after-market adjustments that made them accessible. By their nature, Rhoades said, those cars often came with safety and durability concerns. Around 2006, a group of people began forming the idea that eventually became the MV-1.
Rhoades, who lives in Dawsonville with her husband, Jacob, and her daughter, remains amazed at how much easier the MV-1 has made her life, and she said she’s grateful for the millions of dollars of investment that have paved the way for the vehicles.
“I didn’t know if this was possible in my life,” Rhoades said.