Ever since Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane (2012), it has been clear that people with disabilities often are overlooked when it comes to emergency planning.
For example, one year after Sandy, a federal judge ruled that the shortcomings of New York City’s emergency plan left almost 900,000 residents in danger and violatedthe Americans with Disabilities Act, according to reporting by National Public Radio. The ruling was expected to have national implications. But did it?
In 2019, it’s still not clear whether cities, counties and states are better prepared to evacuate and protect citizens with disabilities during not just hurricanes but also fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and floods. When Hurricane Dorian was expected to hit the U.S. coast this summer, the United Spinal Association’s website offered helpful emergency preparedness tips, but it could not tell people with disabilitiesif their town had accessible shelters or if accessible transportation could get them to the safety of shelters. That kind of information could be the difference between life and death.
Local reporters are uniquely positioned to find out whether their communities have emergency plans that address the needs of those with disabilities – and it’s a story that is well worth telling before the next major disaster strikes.
- United Spinal Association: http://unitedspinal.org/emergency-preparedness-tips-for-people-with-disabilities/
- U.S. Department of Justice and Civil Rights: https://www.ada.gov/emerg_prep.html
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security: https://www.ready.gov/individuals-access-functional-needs
By Susan LoTempio, board member, National Center on Disability and Journalism