Lessons learned from the world trade center disaster: Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities in New York September 2004 contents


from the website of the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council



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from the website of the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council
(It took over two years for PATH service to the World Trade Center site to be restored.)


  1. Disasters disrupt daily life arrangements for all, but people with disabilities have more trouble putting things back together.




  • Many disabled residents could not clean the hazardous dust and debris from their apartments themselves nor were their caretakers, who could have assisted with this task, allowed into the Frozen Zone for many days.

  • Some people with disabilities who had to leave their homes had even more trouble than people without disabilities finding new affordable housing in New York City’s extremely tight and expensive real estate market. In addition, New York City’s rental housing stock, being older than that in most areas around the United States, is composed of less accessible units for people with mobility impairments.

  • People with disabilities tend to face multiple obstacles to finding work. It is difficult for them to get essential skills and education, to find employers who will hire them, and to find jobs that provide the accommodations they need to function. Those who lost jobs due to the WTC attack faced even tougher job searches than all other New Yorkers who became unemployed during the post-disaster economic slump.

  • Computer systems governing public assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid failed, as central offices of city agencies were in the area damaged by the attack. Some food stamp recipients whose benefits were cut off by computer failures were able to walk to food pantries and soup kitchens to get groceries. People who couldn’t walk far enough, or couldn’t wait in line and carry home a load of groceries, were unable to get emergency food.



GM was a resident of Battery Park City who had paraplegia. When forced to leave his apartment, he found a new one. However, to be accessible to him, it needed modifications, and his landlord would not allow him to make them. This was a violation of fair housing rules, which permit tenants to modify their apartments for accessibility as long as they agree to return them to their original condition when they move out.


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