MTSU grad student needs help to win wheelchair accessible van - WKRN News 2

MTSU grad student needs help to win wheelchair accessible van

Posted: Updated: March 27, 2013 04:58 PM CDT

A graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University is in need of community support to help her win a new wheelchair accessible van.

Jennifer Austin, 26, was involved in a hit and run accident on Interstate 24 in 2006.

"A red SUV continued to swerve into my lane and finally hit my back end, and I instantly spun into the median and flipped several times, and I was ejected within the first flip they believe. Unfortunately, the driver did not stop," Austin told Nashville's News 2.

At 20 years old, Austin's life changed in a matter of seconds.

She sustained major injuries that left her a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair.

"I have physical limitations, but I am still the same person," Austin said. "One thing that the accident did take from me is my independence, and that's what I'm so desperately trying to gain back."

Now, a nationwide contest may finally be able to give Austin some of that independence back.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a non-profit organization that supports people with disabilities, is hosting a contest to help those in need of a new wheelchair accessible vehicle.

The person with the most votes will advance to the next round, in which judges will award the new van based on need.

Austin hopes the community will support her in her efforts.

"My van is old, and we're always constantly finding new problems. Everyday it's something different. Winning a brand new wheelchair accessible van would be life changing for me," Austin said. "It would really open up so many opportunities. It would allow me to drive again."

Being able to drive would make Austin able to get a job after she graduates.

"That's why I went back to school, and that's why this contest is so important for me, because of the possibilities it would give me," Austin said.

To vote for Austin, visit

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