People with disabilities comprise a heterogeneous group of people, in terms of
age, type of disability, and the conditions, which led to acquiring a disability
in addition to other demographic factors such as gender, ethnicity, and
socioeconomic status. A person may have been born with a disability or may
acquire it later in life through an accident or medical condition. Some people
may have multiple disabilities. Many disabling conditions become stable after
their acquisition, while others are progressive and will lead to more functional
limitations over time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines
a person with a disability as:
A person with a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities.
A person with a record of such a physical or mental
A person who is regarded as having such
While there are numerous ways to categorize or
define various disabilities, they generally include physical disabilities such
as health and sensory conditions that meet the criteria above, and mental
impairments, which include cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.
People with physical disabilities may use a
wheelchair, cane or crutches or have limited mobility in terms of distance. A
physical disability may also lead to limitations in use of one's upper
extremities. A physical disability may be caused by an accident, such as in the
case of a spinal cord injury or amputation, or through a disease such as
People with sensory disabilities include those
with vision and hearing impairments. These conditions may include a partial or
total loss of vision or hearing. People whose vision is correctable to be within
normal range with glasses are not considered to have a disability. Again, vision
and hearing impairments may be present at birth or may be acquired later in life
through an accident or illness.
People with mental or cognitive impairments
include those with developmental disabilities, including those who were
historically defined as mentally retarded, people with autism, people with
psychiatric disabilities and/or people with learning disabilities who, by
definition, have average or above average intelligence, and have a processing
Other disabilities may include speech impairments
such as stuttering or severe disfigurement in which case people are regarded as
having a disability although their disfigurement may not pose any functional
Being ready for a disaster is a part of
maintaining your independence. Although you may not know when a disaster will
strike, if you are prepared ahead of time, you will be better able to cope with
the disaster and recover from it more quickly. When a disaster occurs, the first
priority of disaster relief organizations and government agencies is to provide
basic needs of food, water and safe shelter to everyone who needs them. Your
personal needs, such as replacing medications and/or adaptive equipment,
restoring electricity for equipment dependent upon power and restoring your
regular ways of support for daily living activities may not happen right away.
It is important for everyone to be prepared to meet his or her own basic needs
by storing food and water for a minimum of three days or more. You should also
be ready to meet needs specific to your disability by storing sufficient oxygen,
medications, battery power, etc., for at least seven days after a disaster.
Knowing about disaster threats and their aftermath
and being prepared are critical for taking care of yourself after a
The best way to cope with a disaster is to learn
about the challenges you might face if you could not use your home, office and
personal belongings. You can meet your basic personal needs by preparing
beforehand. You also may have to deal with a service animal that is unable to
work or is frightened or pets that need care and assistance.
for People With Access and Functional Needs in the Event of a Power Outage
If you use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support
system or other power-dependent equipment, call your power company before
rolling blackouts happen. Many utility companies keep a list and map of the
locations of power-dependent customers in case of an emergency. Ask them what
alternatives are available in your area. Contact the customer service department
of your local utility companies to learn if this service is available in your
If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, have an extra
battery. A car battery also can be used with a wheelchair but will not last as
long as a wheelchair’s deep-cycle battery. If available, store a lightweight
manual wheelchair for backup.
If you are blind or have a visual disability, store a
talking or Braille clock or large-print timepiece with extra batteries.
If you are deaf or have a hearing loss, consider getting a
small portable battery-operated television set. Emergency broadcasts may give
information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open captioning.
Assisting People With Access and Functional Needs In A Disaster
Do you know someone with a
People with disabilities often need more time than others
to make necessary preparations in an emergency.
The needs of older people often are similar to those of
persons with disabilities.
Because disaster warnings are often given by audible means
such as sirens and radio announcements, people who are deaf or hard of hearing
may not receive early disaster warnings and emergency instructions. Be their
source of emergency information as it comes over the radio or television.
Some people who are blind or visually impaired, especially
older people, may be extremely reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the
request for evacuation comes from a stranger.
A guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a
disaster. People who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others
to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.
In most states, guide dogs will be allowed to stay in
emergency shelters with owners. Check with your local emergency management
officials for more information.
People with impaired mobility are often concerned about
being dropped when being lifted or carried. Find out the proper way to transfer
or move someone in a wheelchair and what exit routs from buildings are best.
Some people with mental retardation may be unable to
understand the emergency and could become disoriented or confused about the
proper way to react.
Many respiratory illnesses can be aggravated by stress. In
an emergency, oxygen and respiratory equipment may not be readily available.
People with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other
conditions often have very individualized medication regime's that cannot be
interrupted without serious consequences. Some may be unable to communicate this
information in an emergency.
Be Ready to Offer
Assistance if Disaster Strikes
Prepare an Emergency
Be able to assist if an evacuation order is issued.
Provide physical assistance in leaving the home/office and
transferring to a vehicle.
Provide transportation to a shelter. This may require a
specialized vehicle designed to carry a wheelchair or other mobility
Self-help networks is arrangements of people who agree to
assist an individual with a disability in an emergency. Discuss with the
relative, friend or co-worker who has a disability what assistance he or she may
need. Urge the person to keep a disaster supplies kit and suggest that you keep
an extra copy of the list of special items such as medicines or special
equipment that the person has prepared. Talk with the person about how to inform
him or her of an oncoming disaster and see about getting a key to the person's
house so you can provided assistance without delay.
For more information visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency.