“Each disaster compounds the day-to-day difficulties of seniors, people with disabilities, and people with special needs,” says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 3. “With every disaster, persons with disabilities are overlooked,” states Mike Collins, Executive Director, California State Independent Living Council. “Disaster planning is something we talk about, but never plan for regarding persons with disabilities,” agrees Marcie Davis, President Davis Innovations, and wheelchair user. Now is the time for persons with disabilities to Speak Out!
The following stories have been gathered from the survey participants:
“The able-bodied community MUST get the message that it is critical to think through and develop a plan to evacuate people with disabilities.”- New York, NY
“It is really difficult to get the utility company to understand power is a need, if disabled.” – Severe Storms, Knoxville, TN
“We had to move out of our house for several weeks to have it repaired. All the places that people referred us to were not accessible to me in my scooter.” – Earthquake, Los Angeles, CA
“I ambulate with forearm crutches and my leg stamina is limited. As a social service provider in NYC, I am in tall buildings often and one in particular they had an evacuation drill. There were no plans or equipment to assist me. They told me to ignore the drill. I felt very vulnerable because I attend regular work meetings in this building.” – New York City
After a hurricane, “I did not use the shelters, because they were not wheelchair accessible, and had no provisions for my service dog.” – Miami, FL
My wheelchair ramp washed away in a flood and my house was left with three feet of mud everywhere. It was hard to use my electric wheelchair. I had money to pay for a ramp, but couldn’t hire any one, as they were busy elsewhere.” – Texas
“We had a fire at work and the evacuation plan didn’t work to get me out. Even so, management refused to change the plan” - Oklahoma
At the temporary shelter I couldn’t get to the bathrooms, as you had to walk up stairs. – Northridge, CA
“The disaster volunteer was not trained on accessibility issues. He said that the shelters should be accessible since the law requires it. He didn't understand the impact of me getting there only to discover that they were in violation of the law”- Hurricane, Alexandria, VA
“My only accessible route was on fire at my home. I had to escape via a non-accessible route. The fire destroyed our home.”- Hagerstown, VA
“Disabled persons have the same freedom of choice as any other American. The paternalistic attitude was frightening beyond belief that I experienced [while trying to access after disaster services and information].” – Earthquake, Glendora, CA
California SILC Wildfire Forums
The following excerpt from the California forums report describe the shortcomings in preparation, notification, evacuation, sheltering and recovery that adversely impacted persons with disabilities. For purposes of this web page, only the issues impacting persons with mobility impairments are listed. The report titled, “Issue Brief: The Impact of 2003 Wildfires on People with Disabilities” is published by the California State Independent Living Council, and can be obtained at www.calsilc.org.
“People with disabilities were especially hard hit by these disasters as many of those individuals were unable to evacuate themselves, see approaching danger, or hear announcements to evacuate.”
“People who relied on specialized medication and who did not have prescriptions or a supply with them were placed in danger due to medical conditions.”
“Many individuals who require mobility aids to walk or move themselves were evacuated without those items.” For residents of two skilled nursing facilities who were transferred to a shelter setting, they were restricted to their beds until volunteers could carry them to the restrooms when needed.
“Evacuation plans did not include vehicles that could also transport wheelchairs and walkers so evacuees with disabilities could maneuver in whatever environment they were placed in, without assistance.”
“Emergency telephone access was provided through prior arrangements with a vendor that utilized a special trailer that had no telephones located within the reach ranges of people using wheelchairs, …”
“Limited availability of contractors to make home repairs or construct new homes has been especially difficult for people who require different levels of accessibility. Specialized contractors may not be available, and their work backlog could extend for months or years. For the person who is unable to access most of the available stock of housing due to a mobility impairment, this is a critical issue.”
2 From: http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema?year=2003, retrieved Aug. 2004, for 1993, disaster, emergency or fire declarations were issued in 43 states, which resulted in at least one disaster occurring and one declaration being issued per month in 1993.
4 From: “Issue Brief: The Impact of 2003 Wildfires on People with Disabilities” is published by the California State Independent Living Council, and can be obtained at www.calsilc.org.
[NLB_Home] | [Grant Abstract] | [Research Sites ] | [Findings] | [Speak Out (1)] | [Speak Out (2)]
[Resources] | [PowerPoint Presentations] | [Advisors] | [Research Team]
[Disaster Facts(1)] | [Disaster Facts(2)] | [Photo Credits ] | [Contact]