1. Incorporate the principles of equal access and universal design into all aspects of emergency planning, and engage with experts when necessary to identify strategies and solutions for meeting specific functional needs in all circumstances

2. Emergency planning efforts for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs must assume the sheltering of these persons in the most integrated settings possible (i.e., persons with disabilities should not be sheltered in medical/special needs shelters unless they have acute medical needs requiring hospital or nursing home level of care at the time of evacuation and sheltering)

3. People with disabilities have equal rights protections, including throughout disasters. Do not rely on volunteers, donations and charity to meet your obligations to provide equal access, reasonable accommodations and modifications.

4. Do not utilize a system of tiered or graded sheltering; all shelters must be equally accessible and suitable for meeting the access and functional needs of persons with and without disabilities

5. Do not use acronyms (i.e. AFN, DAFN, PWD, etc.) to refer to people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs

6. Always ensure that all print, verbal, or electronic communications with the public regarding emergency warnings and actionable information are simultaneously communicated to persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs via qualified channels (i.e. ASL interpreters, open captions, Braille, etc.) in an equitable, timely, and efficient manner

7. Support community leadership; plan with the community not for the community and be led by the community you serve

8. When speaking to the public or media, make sure that sign language interpreters are highly visible to the audience and the cameras

9. Do not confuse the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (i.e. equal access, reasonable accommodations, modifications to maintain health, safety, and independence, etc.) with needs that require strictly medical care

10. Plans should ensure that individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are never separated from their service animals or assistive devices

11. Ensure that your agency/department/organization has met all requirements for providing equal physical, program, and effective communication access to persons with disabilities before spending any federal funds granted to your agency/department/organization or any of its contractors

12. Provide equal access and meet non-discrimination requirements before, during, and after disasters, at all times

13. Prioritize whole community inclusive preparedness initiatives rather than “special needs” specific registries, particularly by partnering with community-based organizations who are most knowledgeable about the needs of people in the community (i.e. paratransit, independent living centers, developmental and mental health service providers, Meals on Wheels, home health, aging services, dialysis centers, etc.)

14. Do not use language that suggests persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are liabilities (i.e. “fragile,” “special,” “vulnerable,” “at-risk,” etc.) for these terms reinforce false stereotypes and inhibit the ability of all members of the community to serve as assets in emergency planning, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts

15. Be sure to account for the 2 million people with disabilities who live in institutions and nursing homes; remember that the total number of Americans with disabilities is actually at least 61 million according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

16. Make sure that emergency planning efforts take into account individuals who may not have the same legal protections as those with disabilities, but who have similar accessibility and accommodation needs (i.e. children, older adults, pregnant women, people with injuries, people with limited English proficiency, etc.)

17. Include all members of the community in planning efforts, particularly people with disabilities and those who are economically disadvantaged as they are the disproportionately impacted by incomplete and ineffective disaster planning

18. Be sure to recommend only realistic and achievable tasks for individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (i.e. teach them to store medical and contact information when it’s not possible to acquire and consistently maintain a costly cache of medication)

19. Teach the entire community how to safely evacuate multistory buildings and do not rely on “areas of rescue” for people with mobility disabilities; do not rely on the “buddy system;” instead, reinforce whole community planning efforts wherein everyone assists each other; have a plan that provides a way for those in need of rescue to communicate their needs and location during an evacuation

20. Incorporate a wide variety of transportation resources and circumstances in your emergency planning (i.e. accessible vehicles, keys, gas, lift operating instructions, alternate drivers, etc.)

21. Engage the whole community when planning exercises, drills and simulations, and do not expect exercises to be perfect; they are meant to identify gaps and provide no-fault opportunities for solving problems

22. When exercising, do not use actors or objects to portray real people and real world-scenarios, and always take the opportunity to find gaps, shortfalls, and inefficiencies in planning efforts

23. Do not focus only on physical access when planning for the access and functional needs of the people in your community; consult experts with lived experience with mental health, aging, sensory, and communication disabilities, chemical and environmental sensitivities, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and cognitive disabilities and chronic health conditions throughout planning, preparedness, recovery, and mitigation efforts

24. Utilize recovery and mitigation periods to “build back better” – incorporate newfound knowledge and experience to build a better system based on whole community inclusion, universal design, accessibility and accommodations in advance of the next disaster

25. Community resilience is only possible when the whole community participates. Disability inclusive emergency management is an imperative for achieving and maintaining community resilience before, during and after disasters

If you or your organization share our commitment, please consider signing on as a founding member.

For further information, please contact:

Marcie Roth

© Copyright 2017 Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies