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Indybay Feature
Support Your Community and Yourself
by Criptacular! (Criptastic [at]
Available public services for seniors and people with disabilities are often not well-publicized, and if we don't apply for them, we are often undercounted and underserved when we need it most.
In these times where transit options are rapidly changing, Criptacular! has found that few disabled people and seniors are aware of their rights and responsibilities. As such, we hope to write the occasional column where we can let you all know how you can not only make your own lives and those of your caregivers easier, but also contribute to the well-being of the community as a whole.

Why Claiming the Benefits You’re Entitled to is Important

So often, official policy decisions are made based on who accesses available services. This is also true for parking in the City of Berkeley. It matters when people who are eligible don’t apply for parking benefits they are entitled to, because the City uses data from those applications to help them determine how many disabled people there are, and how much planning needs to be done to accommodate them. This can have far-reaching repercussions when there is a severe undercount in the numbers in everything from seating on BART and buses to availability of special parking spaces.

If you don’t need that advantage on a given day, then by all means, don’t use it, and leave it available for someone else who might need it. But if you DO need it, you should use it. Too often, we are stigmatized for stating our needs, or subjected to ableist comments about how our disabilities are some sort of character flaw. As long as we continue to play into that, we will continue to have more people who can’t take care of themselves, when really, the solutions are right there, and are inexpensive and easy.

Am I Really Disabled, Even if I’m not in a Wheelchair?

Disability, like so many other things, is a spectrum. Some people have very mild disabilities that barely impact their ability to live their lives exactly like everyone else. Others have severe disabilities, where even if you can’t see them (invisible disabilities, such as severe chronic illnesses which may not be immediately obvious), they pose an extreme detriment to doing necessary things in the same way as everyone else. Some people may only occasionally need a wheelchair, such as some MS patients who have not (yet) declined to the point where they can’t walk every day. Someone with a recent heart attack might not be able to walk great distances, but also doesn’t need a wheelchair. That doesn’t mean that disabled parking or a disability seat on the train or bus isn’t appropriate.

In 2008, the ADA was amended by Congress, and signed into law by President Obama, loosening restrictions on what could be considered “disabled.” Parking allowances can go even further, in that it is possible to get a temporary placard for the expected life of a possibly temporary disability which is expected to improve.

The language in the ADA amendment can be found here:

If you think you might qualify, talk to you doctor and be sure to show them the language of the amendments, as not all are familiar with it. From there, you’ll be eligible for a parking placard or disability license plate from the DMV, which can be found here:

You can also request a reduced fare clipper card (for BART and bus), which can be found here:

That clipper card is also available to seniors who are not disabled, so be sure to check it out.

Once you have your disabled license plate or placard, you can apply for other benefits from the City, such as free parking downtown in the Addison St. garage (this will cost $15 at the outset, with free parking using the card afterwards; and a blue curb in front of your place of residence, which anyone with a placard will be able to use even if you don’t need it on a given day. Links to both of those programs can be found on the City’s website, here:

Other transportation programs that may be of interest to seniors and disabled people include Demand and Response rides from Easy Does It (EDI). This is and the photos below are from their website: “Demand Response Rides provides transportation within the City of Berkeley (and to and from surrounding areas) for seniors and people with disabilities needing to get to medical appointments and other community-based activity. Our lift-equipped vans will transport you and your wheelchair, scooter, or other adaptive equipment securely and safely.

This service is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., and weekends 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Please call us at 510-704-2111 at least 24 hours before you need service. Rides for Medical appointments, including Covid-19 vaccinations can be scheduled up to 7 days in advance (or more if needed).”

Easy Does It has other services designed to help seniors and disabled people when they need an emergency attendant or have serious problems which aren’t appropriate for an ambulance, so be sure to check their site out thoroughly. They are working on putting together a list and an easier way to register so that in the event that you need assistance to evacuate during an emergency, they can better coordinate with emergency services. Join up and keep posted about this.

East Bay Paratransit also offers transportation services for “people who are unable to use regular buses or trains, like those operated by AC Transit and BART, because of a disability or a disabling health condition. East Bay Paratransit transports riders from their origin to their destination in vans equipped with a wheelchair lift. East Bay Paratransit was established by AC Transit and BART to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” Check out your eligibility and terms of service here:

Finally, Berkeley has a limited monthly amount of support in the form of taxi scrip for seniors over 80 and those who qualify for East Bay Paratransit, above, as well as for low-income seniors who are 70-79. You can access those services here, in addition to a number of other programs such as the Wheelchair Van Program; the High Medical Need Program, for people with a need for more rides to frequent medical appointments; GoGoGrandparent (GGG), which is a call center that has access to free Lyft and Uber fares for qualified applicants; Field Trips for Seniors and rides to Senior Centers:

By registering for any and all these services that you need, you will also be helping the City have a better idea of the needs of seniors and disabled people, which will reap more benefits in universal design citywide (so that anyone can use public spaces), as well as larger future projects in which our needs will need to be considered as well. They won’t plan for us if they don’t know we exist, so let’s all register and improve the available data! HIPAA and the reluctance of many to self-identify in a way that serves their basic needs from a privacy perspective gives an artificial dataset that hurts us all. This is one small thing you can do for yourself and others like you in the community, so that we can all thrive together. Stay tuned for more useful tips from your friends at Criptacular!, an informal community group of activists dedicated to providing more opportunities for independent living, integration into the community, and an informational conduit to ensure that the identity and needs of the senior and disabled community as a whole are fully embraced.

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