People With Disabilities and Other Functional and Access Needs

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on disaster behavioral health for people with disabilities and other access and functional needs. The installment covers these topics:

  • Ways that emergency management, government agencies, nonprofits, first responders, and disaster responders can make sure to include people with disabilities in disaster plans, communications, and response
  • Information for people with disabilities and other access and functional needs about preparing for and recovering from disaster

Use the menu bar on the left to narrow the results by audience, population group, and more.

Related Resources

Displaying 26 total results.
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A guide for including people with disabilities in disaster preparedness planning - Connecticut Developmental Disabilities Network
This guide is geared toward emergency planners at the regional, state, and local levels. It contains information about the diversity of people with disabilities, involving the disability community in emergency planning, disaster communications, and emergency evacuation and sheltering for people with disabilities.

An ADA guide for local governments: Making community emergency preparedness and response programs accessible to people with disabilities - U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
This guide provides recommendations for local governments and agencies to help them create disaster preparedness and response programs that account for the needs of people with disabilities, which will bring these programs into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It suggests ways to handle planning, notification, and evacuation; make sure shelters are accessible; and train staff to deal with service animals, medications, and communication.

Disability and health: Emergency preparedness - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS, CDC)
This web page provides information to help people with disabilities and their families to prepare for disasters and other emergencies, as well as information for emergency management professionals and disaster responders.

Disaster plans should include those with mental illness -
This online article relates information from a commentary in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism by Peter Rabins and Nancy Kass that called attention to the need to account for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, and other mental disorders, as well as addictions, in disaster planning. This article relates the particular vulnerability that people with these conditions may have in the event of a disaster. It also reports on some recommendations from the commentary, including training of non-behavioral-health professionals in identification and referral of people in crisis, involving community volunteers in providing basic materials and services, and considering how to address ethical challenges that may arise during disaster response. [Author: Nauert, R.]

Disaster preparedness for people with complex communication needs: A personal perspective - Pennsylvania State University, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC-RERC)
In this half-hour webcast, a person with complex communication needs describes her experience of the Grand Forks flood of 1997 (Complex communication needs are needs people have if they have speech, language, and/or cognitive impairments that make it hard or impossible for them to meet their day-to-day communication needs without tools or technologies to help). People may have complex communication needs if they have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, stroke, or multiple sclerosis.) The speaker in the webcast also identifies seven steps that everyone with complex communication needs should take to be prepared for a disaster or other emergency.

Disaster preparedness for persons with mental health needs - Cafe Technical Assistance Center
This publication describes some of the stressors and challenges associated with disasters and notes that people with mental health needs may need to plan more extensively than others for disasters. It explains the difference between natural and human-caused disasters, lists questions to consider in assessing your preparedness, and suggests steps to take as someone with mental health needs to prepare for a disaster or other emergency.

Disaster preparedness tips for emergency management personnel: Communication access for people with limited speech - Pennsylvania State University, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC-RERC)
This checklist and tip sheet provides general steps that emergency responders should take to prepare to meet the needs of individuals with limited speech. The tip sheet reviews different methods of augmentative and alternative communication, including speech generating devices and personal communication displays.

Emergency 2.0 wiki accessibility toolkit - Accessibility Reference Group
This online toolkit provides information, resources, and links to help people with disabilities use social media to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. It also contains information to help government, emergency management, and nonprofits ensure that their disaster communications through social media are accessible to all.

Emergency planning for people with access and functional needs - U.S. Army (USA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)
This video guides emergency management officials and staff in disaster planning for people with access and functional needs. It includes ways in which emergency management can involve people with functional needs in the planning process for their community.

Emergency Preparedness - U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL, ODEP)
This section of ODEP's website provides people with disabilities, their families, employers, and first responders with links to sources of information on emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.^^%22&adv_qry=advanced_resource_b:0

Emergency preparedness in a sample of persons with disabilities - American Journal of Disaster Medicine
In this article, authors report on the results of an online survey of 253 community residents with disabilities, each with a personal assistant. In the survey, residents provided information about their emergency preparedness, including whether they had an emergency plan. Those who had experienced a previous emergency and whose personal assistant had been involved in the development of their emergency plan had higher preparedness scores overall. In general, however, researchers found gaps in preparedness among respondents; they note that their findings suggest the need for outreach related to disaster preparedness targeted to people with disabilities. [Citation: Gershon RR, Kraus LE, Raveis VH, Sherman MF, Kailes JI. Am J Disaster Med. 2013 Winter;8(1):35-47. doi: 10.5055/ajdm.2013.0109.]

Emergency preparedness of families of children with developmental disabilities: What public health and safety emergency planners need to know - Journal of Emergency Management
This journal article reports on a survey to assess emergency preparedness of U.S. parents and guardians of children with developmental disabilities. Most respondents described themselves as somewhat to moderately well prepared for an emergency, but even those who believed they were very well prepared had taken fewer than half of the steps researchers had identified as common across preparedness guides and important to preparedness. Survey results suggested that respondents needed more support in preparing for disasters. [Citation: Wolf-Fordham S, Curtin C, Maslin M, Bandini L, Hamad CD. Emergency preparedness of families of children with developmental disabilities: What public health and safety emergency planners need to know. J Emerg Manag. 2015 Jan-Feb;13(1):7-18. doi: 10.5055/jem.2015.0213]

Emergency preparedness publications and resources - Pacific ADA Center
On this web page, the Pacific ADA Center provides links to a wide range of resources about emergency preparedness for people with disabilities and access and functional needs. Resources come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Council on Disability, states, and other entities. They include fact sheets, videos, courses and curricular materials, web pages, and guides.

Emergency preparedness webinars - Pacific ADA Center and the ADA National Network
This web page features webinars (upcoming as well as archived) about including people with disabilities in planning for disasters and other emergencies. Webinars cover approaches and strategies at federal, state, and local levels.

Enhancing public health emergency preparedness for special needs populations: A toolkit for state and local planning and response - RAND Corporation
This toolkit helps states and localities include the needs of special populations, including people with disabilities and other functional needs, in their disaster plans and disaster response processes. In the toolkit, general strategies are presented, as well as strategies specifically related to people with disabilities. The toolkit provides guidance in selecting strategies that make sense for a particular community, as well as in evaluating practices.

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Last Updated: 07/19/2016