The ADA requires access to and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of emergency mitigation, planning, response, and recovery.
Now is the time to plan ahead for what individuals with disabilities may need to stay safe, healthy, informed, mobile and independent during a disaster!
As the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination believes, “when communities integrate the needs of children and adults with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into their community-wide planning initiatives, they maximize resources, meet their obligations and strengthen their ability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.”
Our region has experienced significant natural disasters over the past few years – the devastating floods in North Dakota, destructive tornados in South Dakota, severe blizzards in various locations, and tragic wildfires in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. We continually field calls and emails from citizens with disabilities who have been impacted by disaster throughout the region and advise everyone to:
- Be informed. As part of our preparation for emergencies, it is helpful to know ahead of time what resources are available for people with disabilities. If you use durable medical equipment, make sure you know who provides back up equipment (or batteries or oxygen tanks, etc.) in times of emergency. If you use public transportation, verify that you have access to transportation to evacuate through other community organizations if public transit isn’t available or running.
- Be prepared. Because we live in a region with diverse weather and terrain, it’s vital that we all take steps to prepare ourselves and our families for possible disasters. Educate yourself. Learn about the ADA requirements for access to emergency services within your community including access to temporary shelters and disaster recovery centers. Register your phone numbers with your county E9-1-1 service so you receive emergency notifications in a timely manner.
- Get involved. It is important that people with disabilities and others interested in access issues get involved with efforts at the local and state levels to ensure that future responses to disasters are more inclusive of people with disabilities. Log on to ready.gov to find ways to participate in emergency preparedness activities in your community. Contact your local center for independent living and volunteer to help with their planning activities. Get in touch with your local emergency preparedness office to volunteer. Get involved. Get a seat at the table. Be part of the discussion and help plan for a more accessible future. It really can mean life or death for people with disabilities in your community.
For possible additional resources, please see our resources page or contact the Rocky Mountain ADA Center through our Technical Assistance Form or call us directly at 800-949-4232.
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is not an enforcement agency, nor does it provide advocacy services. The information and materials provided by the center are intended solely as informal guidance and are not a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities. All communication with the center is strictly confidential.