While attending college in the Washington DC Metro area, I qualified for the reduced fare SmarTrip card since I have low vision, which gave me discounts on Metrorail services and other fares. A lot of students with vision loss at my college didn’t know about this program, so today I will be sharing my tips for getting a reduced fare SmarTrip card with low vision, and what to expect from the process.
A reduced fare SmarTrip card allows people with qualifying disabilities under the age of 65 to receive discounted fare on Metrobus, Metrorail, and other participating public transportation agencies- people over 65 automatically qualify for reduced fare whether they have a qualifying disability or not. The cards feature the user’s photo and function the same way as other SmarTrip cards do, with the user tapping the card at the Metrorail station entrance/exit or on the Metrobus.
Users can receive a discounted fare on the following participating bus service providers:
To qualify for a reduced fare SmarTrip card with vision loss, users will need to have a healthcare professional fill out the Reduced Fare Program form to be issued a photo ID card. The exact criteria for blind/low vision users is listed below, copied from the Reduced Fare Eligibility page:
7. Blind or Low Vision: An individual is legally blind, whose visual acuity in the better eye, with correction, is 20/200 or less, or who has tunnel vision to 10 degrees or less from a point of fixation or so the widest diameter subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. An individual has low vision, and whose visual acuity is in the range of 20/70 to 20/200 with best correction.
It’s worth noting that users do not need to use a blindness cane or service animal in order to qualify for reduced fare, though some users may prefer to have a blindness cane for identification purposes when traveling on public transportation as a way of letting people around them know that they have a visual impairment.
I filled out part A of the Reduced Fare Program form on my own before bringing it to my ophthalmologist to complete Part B and C, which certifies that I have low vision and qualify for the program. If my opthalmologist hadn’t been available, I would have used my primary care doctor or one of the medical staff at my college’s student health center. Disability Services or the state unit/department for visual impairment cannot certify disability on this form, it has to be a healthcare professional.
I brought the completed application in a sealed envelope to the WMATA Headquarters Transit Accessibility Center, along with a photo ID. It took about an hour to get everything processed and to receive my Photo ID card, and the card itself is valid for five years, meaning users have to submit a new application every five years to continue receiving reduced fare.
Visitors to the area can be issued a one-time Reduced Fare SmarTrip card for 30 days if they present a copy of their Disability ID card from another transit agency or a letter certifying their disability from a healthcare professional – this can be done at the WMATA Headquarters as well.
Adding value to the reduced fare SmarTrip card works the same as other SmarTrip cards and can be done online or at a kiosk at the Metro station- personally, I prefer to use the online services as it is easier for me to access. Photo ID SmarTrip cards cannot be added to digital wallet apps like Google Pay or Apple Pay, so users will need to store their card in a wallet or other secure location.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated November 2023; original post published September 2017.
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