Washington, D.C. — Americans with disabilities are between 2 and 4 times more likely to die in a hurricane than people without disabilities. Yet a new Center for American Progress issue brief finds that the Trump administration’s rollbacks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as changes to U.S. disaster response policy, put the disability community at even greater risk during a natural disaster.
“Inequities in access always increase during natural disasters and extreme weather events, which is why it’s so important to center people with disabilities in all disaster planning,” says Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP. “By pushing the responsibility for disaster response and recovery to the states, and by reducing the number of Disability Integration Advisors sent to federally declared disaster areas from approximately 60 per disaster to just 5 per disaster, the administration is risking the safety and well-being of people living with disabilities.”
With the risk of extreme weather events due to global warming only increasing, the brief also includes several recommendations for local, state, and federal officials to address the needs of the disability community, including:
- Ensuring that evacuation services and shelters are fully accessible to people with disabilities, including those individuals with service and emotional support animals
- Guaranteeing that disaster communication plans reflect the diverse needs of people with disabilities and other at-risk communities, including using certified American Sign Language interpreters and publishing materials in Braille
- Requiring the creation of designated state integration specialists within state emergency preparation agencies
- Coordinating evacuation processes for nursing homes, hospitals, and prisons
- Providing centers for independent living and other disability service providers access to federal funding for response and recovery efforts
- Enacting processes and policies to avoid the implementation of the Baker Act and the involuntary institutionalization and incarceration of low-income people and people with disabilities
- Restoring the number of Disability Integration Advisors sent out for each disaster to a minimum of 60
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj or 202.495.3682.