The Braille Monitor                                                                                                  May 2005

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Now What Am I Going to Do?
by Karl Smith

Karl Smith
Karl Smith

From the Editor: Karl Smith is a longtime Federationist who lives his belief in the competence and confidence of blind people to solve their problems. Transportation is always a challenge to those who do not drive. I often hear people say that they just donít know how to solve their travel problems, so they have no choice but to stay home. In the following little story Karl demonstrates that where there is a will, there is a way. This is what he says:

I am the owner and operator of Axis, a small company in the business of selling all types of assistive technology and training for people who are blind or have low vision. During the course of my work I travel throughout Utah and into Wyoming and Idaho. I employ a full-time driver and lease a twelve-passenger van to carry large pieces of equipment. But it hasn't always been this way. Ten years ago, when I first started my business, I couldn't afford a full-time driver or a vehicle, so I used alternatives like buses, taxis, and part-time drivers using their own vehicles when the load was too large.

In the summer of 1995 I scheduled a trip to St. George, Utah, a town 360 miles south of Salt Lake City, where I live. To get there I planned to take the Greyhound bus, carrying several large, low-vision reading machines as luggage. Once in St. George I had arranged for a local resident with a van large enough to carry my equipment to drive for me for the three days I would be in the area.

Arriving in St. George in the early afternoon, I hauled my suitcase and several large boxes the short distance from the bus stop to the hotel and finally checked into my room. Once settled in, I called Scott, my part-time driver, to let him know I had arrived safely and to arrange for pickup the next morning. "Oh I'm really sorry; I have a problem," said Scott as soon as I had identified myself. "My van is broken down and will be in the shop for several days. I tried to call you but only got your answering machine."

"You don't have any other vehicle we could use?" I asked, desperately trying to salvage the trip somehow.

"Only my wife's little Honda, but she drives it to work every day. I'm really sorry about this."

I hung up the phone, disheartened. Now what am I going to do? I thought to myself. I had money and time invested in this trip. I had appointments scheduled for the next three days and no way to get to them. Who could I call? I had contacted Scott through a newspaper ad, but there was obviously no time to try that again. Since it was about dinner time, I called to order a pizza. When the young delivery man arrived a half hour later, I paid him. Then, just as he was about to leave, I said, "Say, what are you doing tomorrow?"

Somewhat perplexed, he replied a bit nervously, "Well, I'm working. Why?" I explained my sudden need for a driver, but he repeated that he had to work. I asked if he knew anyone else who might want a job for a couple of days. He thought for a minute and then said that he did not.

As I ate my pizza, I considered my situation carefully. I didn't know anyone in town, so I had no one I could call. After a few minutes I picked up the phone and called the front desk. I asked the desk clerk if she knew of anyone who might be available to drive for me. She said she did not. She asked a couple of the other hotel employees with no success.

Finally I called the local taxi company. I thought that perhaps they might have an off-duty driver who might like to make some extra money. At first the dispatcher said she didn't know anyone who could help. Then she mentioned that her father was visiting for a few days and that he had nothing to do during the day. Perhaps he might be able to help. She promised he would call back in a few minutes.

A short while later my phone rang, and, when I picked it up, an elderly man told me that he was the father of Jan, the taxi company dispatcher. His name was Roger, and he said he could help me for the next couple of days. I told him that I paid by the hour plus mileage, and we agreed to meet the next morning at 9:00.

Roger arrived promptly the next morning. The pick-up truck he was driving had definitely seen better days and, among other things, had no air conditioning, which in this desert town only two hours out of Las Vegas could be quite uncomfortable this time of year. It also had no odometer, so Roger and I agreed just to estimate the miles traveled to calculate his pay. Roger turned out to be a friendly and helpful sort. He knew the area well, having grown up there, and he had many interesting stories to tell.

For the next three days Roger and I hauled equipment in the dusty back of his truck all over the St. George area. I kept my appointments, demonstrated equipment, and made a couple of sales. When it was time to go, I paid Roger and thanked him for helping me out at such short notice. He said that he had enjoyed having something to do and that I should call if I ever needed him again. I boarded the Greyhound back to Salt Lake City, content in the knowledge that my trip had been successful even with the problems at the beginning. I also felt good that I had not let unforeseen events disrupt my plans.

Operating a business, whether you are blind or not, is risky, particularly early on. The solution to the problem I faced in St. George was not so much a matter of my blindness as it was a challenge to my ability to think of and try different solutions until I found one that worked. Businesspeople continually face problems, changes in plans, and other unforeseen circumstances which require them to review their actions and make necessary changes to meet their goals. How successful they are often depends on how well they meet these challenges.

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A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:

James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.

For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

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