By Linda Mastandrea, Director and Reyma McCoy McDeid: For Entire Post, Click Here…
Last week, we commemorated the landmark signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA provided a strong foundation for FEMA and our partners to work together to serve disaster survivors with disabilities and ensure equitable access to services and programs, while preserving and promoting the independence of people with disabilities.
Although much progress has been made, there is more we can do to live up to the law’s promise of equal opportunities for all people. We’re committed to integrating the needs of people with disabilities into emergency preparedness, response and recovery programs around the nation, and we value the collaboration with disability stakeholders at the state, local, tribal and territorial levels that make it possible.
One of the themes for this year’s ADA celebration is independent living for people with disabilities. FEMA and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) are focused on helping people with disabilities affected by disasters to return to communities that are accessible, where the supports and services they need are readily available and where they can live independently alongside family and friends. NCIL and FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC) work together to create a path to independence for people with disabilities impacted by disasters.
- The ADA addresses the need to include access and accommodations in all aspects of emergency preparedness, response and recovery for people with disabilities.
- Accessible transportation to support evacuation of people with disabilities in emergency operations plans.
- Modifying policies, practices and procedures and providing accommodations to enable people with disabilities to stay with their families or support networks in integrated shelters.
- People who use personal assistance services may need guidance coordinating or receiving those services to be able to use local shelters.
- People who are blind or have low vision can access emergency management and disaster related communications and materials in alternative formats, i.e., Braille, large print and audio.
The ADA requires state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations to ensure that communication with people with disabilities is accessible and provides the same information that people without disabilities receive.
People cannot plan for or ensure their safety if they do not have the ability to receive real-time information about situations and options. Working with state, local, tribal and territorial governments to integrate the needs of people with disabilities into emergency management planning is important; through these efforts, we can understand how best to address everyone’s needs in a disaster, including people with disabilities.