Updated: Apr 3, 2022
TheCIL’s Residential Access program is one of our most popular. Its goal is to make it more safe for people living in their homes, stay out of institutions, and age in place with the greatest amount of independence possible.
In October, TheCIL was lucky enough to receive many grants - among them, a “Victims of Crime” grant from Cal OES and a “Victims of Violence” grant from the Reeve Foundation - that allowed us to do make some amazing modifications for several people with disabilities in our community.
Devon is one of them.
Devon was a young man who had recently been involved in a severe car accident in which he lost the use of his legs and made it more difficult for him to communicate with others.
However, his home was not wheelchair accessible. The entrance to the house was too narrow, and the door swung the wrong way. There was a step up to the house. There was a step from the door into the house. It was completely unworkable for Devon, and he and
his grandparents, new to the world of disability, didn’t know how to get the resources they needed.
In stepped John Benson, now our Residential Access Coordinator. A long-time member of the Berkeley independent living movement, he described his role in the project as being “a handyman of sorts.” Of course, he was able to do great work on the house - they installed a series of ramps that allowed Devon to navigate into and around his house, a new front door, and a new gate into the backyard. TheCIL was also able to gift Devon with a hospital bed, a standing frame, and a new device that helps him type and speak to others.
Just as valuable, though, was the time John spent talking to Devon and his grandparents. Drawing on his decades of experience working with the disability community, John volunteered his time to talk to the family about what it would be like for Devon to live as a disabled person, the challenges he’d face, surprises he’d encounter.
In John’s new role, he impacts families in every project he works on. The changes he sees in the individuals he works with make it all worth it for him. “The boost in self-confidence is amazing. That we’re able to do this work is endlessly rewarding.”