MCKINNEY, Texas -- Maritza Spainhouer is one of the lucky ones, she's found her true calling.
The McKinney massage therapists says it's an honor to help her neighbors heal through the power of touch, especially since one of her senses is lacking.
"People let me I listen to their concerns and I help them get better," Spainhouer said.
Spainhouer is legally blind. She has memorized the layout of her massage studio and can navigate it almost seamlessly. But it took some time to get to that point.
"When we first moved to this building I was falling down all the time," Spainhouer laughed.
Spainhouer and her husband Steve have been lobbying city leaders for years to better support the disabled and elderly communities when it comes to public transportation.
"She's built her own business, but there is only so much she can do and grow because she doesn't have that support of being able to travel on her own," Steve said.
Steve drives his wife to and from work every day. The couple says if he weren't able to do that Maritza would lose her business and her livelihood.
"I want her to be independent and supported," Steve said.
After years of lobbying the city, the couple has some good news. City leaders have approved plans for a taxi voucher program that is scheduled to start in June or early summer.
The program will allow residents who are disabled or elderly to buy monthly vouchers for taxi services designed for their needs. The maximum is $400 a month and residents only have to pay for a quarter of the price.
The program will be funded by the city of McKinney which has allocated $100,000 and the Texas Department of Transportation which has allocated around $300,000 according to city leaders. McKinney will offer the vouchers until the funds run out.
City leaders say the preliminary roll out of this program will allow them to better gauge the need for these services. They're still deciding on which provider to work with to offer the specialized rides.
"It's a blessing. It gives me hope," Maritza said.
Maritza's husband Steve says this move is about more than his wife. He says it will help hundreds of other residents who struggle to get around the sprawling North Texas roads and highways.
"This is a part of McKinney showing it's inclusive and welcoming to all our residents," Spainhouer said.
For Maritza though it's more than mobility. The promise of this new taxis service gives her hope for independence and job security in the long term.
The cities of Princeton and Melissa also plan to participate in the program for their citizens.
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