Glenn and Dolly Ann Davis, now married five years, met at a social event hosted by the Association for the Blind.
Together, they tackle small, daily challenges. When they go out to eat at their favorite buffet, they ask a sighted person to lead them through the selection. When they need to write a note, they punch it out on a braille writer.
"We're basically normal people who need help driving to the grocery store," Glenn Davis said.
But getting where they want to go is no small challenge. Taxis can be expensive. And CARTA'S Tel-A-Ride can mean long waits. A 10-mile trip to the doctor can turn into a two-hour journey, Glenn Davis said.
Peter Tecklenburg, transportation planner for CARTA, said he understands the couple's frustration, but for Tel-A-Ride to serve as many residents as possible, sometimes that means having to wait.
"We're in the business of moving groups of people," he said. "The only way to make this work is to combine trips."
CARTA's Tel-A-Ride is a paratransit, or on-demand transportation system, designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disabled riders register with CARTA and can make appointments for curb-to-curb service for a $2.50 one-way fare. Tel-A-Ride drivers can travel within a 3/4-mile corridor on either side of current fixed-route bus lines.
In October 2006, Tel-A-Ride made 5,300 trips. That number rose to 5,900 trips this year. The number of drivers has remained constant, about 14 at peak times, Tecklenburg said, but the service has improved efficiency with new mapping software and seven new vehicles.
"Most who ride don't have another means of transportation," he said.
The Davises are among that majority. Glenn Davis said he went totally blind in 1994 as a complication from diabetes. His wife has been blind since birth. She said doctors estimate her vision at 10 percent.
The North Charleston couple brainstormed a solution in 2005, when they bought a Kia Sedona van. Through friends, they sought volunteer drivers to convey them to appointments and run errands.
But the volunteers didn't work out so well. One used the van as an illegal taxi when not driving the Davises, and another dented the hood. A neighbor informed them when the van was damaged.
The North Charleston couple haven't given up hope that they will find a reliable driver, however.
Cornelia Pelzer, executive director of the Association for the Blind serving coastal South Carolina, said transportation is the No. 1 problem for the visually impaired.
Pelzer refers many visually impaired people to ITNCharlestonTrident, a paratransit service launched a year ago. Seniors age 65 and older, and people with visual impairments, can become members of the nonprofit for $35 a year.
Members keep a fund to pay the $3 pick-up fee and $1-a-mile fare, and there are more than 40 volunteer drivers. The pluses, Pelzer said, are the extra attention right up to the door and not having to share each trip with other members.
Executive Director Jim Ledbetter said ITNCharlestonTrident has more than 200 members, and the word is spreading. In November alone, 25 new members joined.
And October saw the highest number of rides ever recorded — 561. Nearly 40 percent of those rides were for visually impaired members, who represent about a quarter of the nonprofit's membership, Ledbetter said.
The Davises have heard of ITNCharlestonTrident but said they aren't keen to pay the annual membership fee and maintain the $50 minimum account balance.
Despite the issue of transportation, the Davises show no signs of slowing down. They own three therapy dogs and a sight dog, so veterinary trips are common. Glenn Davis writes inspirational novels, telling his story of living with blindness. He also volunteers with VISTA, part of AmeriCorps.
"We do what sighted people do, we just don't drive," he said.