Innovative Transportation Ideas: Karl’s Story


>>Narrator: Sometimes one
has to think outside the box in order to get the job done and
this is just what Karl Smith had to do, when faced with
a transportation dilemma that ended up better
than expected. Here’s his story.>>Karl: My name’s Karl Smith, and I live in Taylorsville,
Utah. I was born blind. Actually, with cataracts,
congenital cataracts. And they — back in the 1950’s, they didn’t know you should
take them off quickly and — because your eyes aren’t fully
developed when you’re born. And so they took them off when
I was 6 months old, which was, really, too late in order for
me to develop a decent vision. I finally lost my remainder
of my vision in 1989, with a retina detachment. And so I’ve been totally
blind for about 25 years now. You know, it — it
affects my ability to get around a number of ways. First of all, I’ve never
been able to drive. And, so I don’t — I’ve
never had that experience — to be able to just jump in a car and go somewhere, on
my own, like that. Over the years, I’ve done
a lot of different things. I’ve taken buses, of
course, and walked. You know, walked
a lot of places. Taken buses. Um, taken taxis. Other things like that. And, it does make
a difference — you know, whenever
we look for a house. When we were buying a home, to
start with, the realtor says, “Oh, it’s really
close to the store”. And I said, “Well, let me
walk it because really close in a car isn’t really close
when you walk somewhere”. And sometimes people don’t
realize just how different it is in a car than it is
to walk somewhere. So, when, you know, when we were
looking for houses and things, we were always looking
for neighborhoods with bus stops nearby
— stores nearby. Places that were really
walking distance nearby, not just driving distance. Yeah, let me just
say, first of all, I have a business of my own. I sell assistive
technology for people who are blind or low vision. I’ve been doing that
for about 22 years now. And I currently have a driver
and a van, and so forth, which makes it really nice. That hasn’t always
been that way. When I started the
business, I used the buses. I used temporary drivers. I used any means
I could — taxis. I once delivered a computer up
to Idaho with the Greyhound bus, and rode it home the
same, you know… Went up there on the bus, took
and delivered the computer. Rode it back. And that was not my
favorite way to do it, but that’s just what you
have to do sometimes. And so, the neighborhood
bus routes, and things, have really decreased over
the years, so even if I wanted to use the bus, it would be
very hard to do that anymore. So as time went by, I started to
look for people to drive for me. I went through a couple
of employment agencies, and found a guy who drove
for me for a few years. At that point, he
brought his own truck. I didn’t own a vehicle
at the time. My current driver, actually, has been with me for
13 years, almost. And, um, we have a
couple of connections. He’s actually my brother-in-law. He works part-time for
me and part-time at UPS. And his wife and my wife are
sisters, so, “We’re always in trouble,” I always
like to say. So, it’s been a real benefit,
and it’s something that, you know, didn’t
start out that way. It wasn’t the first thing I did,
but it was one of those goals that I had because it’s really
hard to run a business and be out and about, if you don’t
have a quick and easy way to get there — where
you want to go. A number of years ago, I was
going down to Saint George, and I was taking a
Greyhound bus down there. And I had contacted someone
in town who had a van, who was going to drive for me. And the products that I
sell, among other things, are video magnifiers,
which are fairly large. And they were, actually,
quite a bit larger and heavier then
than they are now. Well, I loaded three or four
of these onto the Greyhound bus and went down to Saint George. The bus stops near the place where I was going to
stay — the hotel. So I hauled them all off
the bus and hauled them all over to the hotel, and I got
on the phone and called the man who was going to drive for me. And he said, “Oh, I’m really
sorry I couldn’t get ahold of you, but my van’s
broken down. I can’t drive for you”. Well, I had a couple, or three
days, of business to do there and equipment too big to pick
— to carry around on my back. And — and — plus the
distances were too big to walk around with anything. And so I was trying to figure out how I would get
some transportation, short of just cancelling
everything and going home. Well, I was staying at a little
hotel there, and so I called down to the front
desk and I said, um, “Anybody down there
anybody who might want to drive for a couple of days? I’d be willing to pay,”
and so forth and… Well, nobody did. And I — I called the taxi
company, and asked if — it was any way that
I could, maybe, make an arrangement with a taxi. Maybe some kind of
a special deal, where I could pay them a certain
fee for a day or something. Well, they didn’t
really do that. Ordered a pizza and the
pizza delivery guy came. And I said, “What are
you doing tomorrow? You want to drive for
me tomorrow, maybe?” Well, he was a kid and going
to high school, I guess, and he couldn’t drive for me. So, I wasn’t sure
exactly what to do. And — and a little
while later, I got a call from the lady at the front desk. And she said her
father was in town — an older gentleman with an
old, ratty pick-up truck — and didn’t have anything
to do for a couple of days and maybe he could do it. And that’s what happened. He came over in his old,
ratty pick-up truck, and we loaded the equipment in
the back of it, and I paid him by the hour to drive for me. The point, I guess, of that, is
that sometimes you have to — you just have to try to
think of how you’re going to get through something. I could have simply gone home,
which, then, would have meant that I would have wasted
all the money I spent coming down there in the first place. Or just keep looking for things,
and trying to find ways to get, uh, get the job done, which
is what ultimately happened.>>Narrator: For more
information on any of the topics discussed, or to
find resources in your area, please contact the Utah
Parent Center at 801-272-1051. Or our toll free
number is 1-800-468-1160 or visit our website at
www.utahparentcenter.org.