Easier eligibility requirements in store for disabled county transit riders

San Jose
– Disabled South County residents should have an easier time
meeting eligibility requirements for enhanced public transit
service under a new policy adopted by the Santa Clara Valley
Transportation Authority.
San Jose – Disabled South County residents should have an easier time meeting eligibility requirements for enhanced public transit service under a new policy adopted by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The policy change came more than two years after the VTA introduced a policy designed to eliminate what it said was as much 30 percent of paratransit ridership who didn’t meet eligibility requirements.

That policy sparked outrage in the disabled community and a lawsuit from riders who claimed the VTA was ignoring its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to trim its budget.

The paratransit program provides unlimited door-to door, round-trip service to disabled riders who are not able to ride traditional transit lines or are unable to access regular bus and light rail routes. Round-trip service is $7, compared to $4 in 2002. In most cases, riders must make an appointment a day in advance.

Under the new policy, the application has been reduced to one page, in most cases riders are no longer required to provide medical proof of their conditions, and they can receive free rides to evaluation interviews.

Interviews are held monthly in San Jose, but in South County, they are held every other month. Bernice Alaniz, deputy marketing director for the VTA said Friday that the agency will likely increase the number of interviews in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Terry Applegate, of Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, which also has a Gilroy office, called the policy change, a “partial victory,” saying that the VTA should provide interviewers who are more sensitive and knowledgeable about the needs of disabled people.

The VTA contracts with Orthopaedic Hospital of Los Angeles to evaluate applicants. Applegate said she had a quadriplegic client who was questioned at an interview, and at a series of contentious public meetings the VTA has held in recent months, many disabled riders have complained that interviewers ask impertinent questions about their bathing and grocery shopping habits.

The new application will be available soon on the VTA’s Web site, www.vta.org. It will also be available at the Gilroy Senior Center and the Morgan Hill Senior Center.

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