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

NYC Disabled Community Faces Hardships After Attack

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NYC Disabled Community Faces Hardships After Attack,

Long-Term Rehab News, November 2001

B. The Response to Disaster by Relief Agencies Is Experienced Differently by people with disabilities

  1. Disaster services are not all accessible to people with disabilities.

As evidenced in the aftermath of the WTC incident, emergency response and recovery measures did not accommodate people with disabilities.

  • Warnings and instructions were not routinely communicated in ways that can be seen, heard, and understood by people with disabilities.

  • Most shelters and Disaster Assistance Centers were not accessible to people with mobility impairments and did not have signs and printed materials that were readable by the blind and visually impaired.

  • Many relief agencies did not have — or failed to publicize — TTY numbers and most had no American Sign Language interpreters for the deaf and hearing impaired.

  • People with disabilities were not always able to travel to sites providing relief services and supplies, reflecting the widespread absence of accessible modes of transportation.

  • Alternative methods of outreach – for example, home visits or information sessions held at local community centers rather than out-of-neighborhood locations -- were not conducted, even though there were people who were homebound or who had cognitive or psychiatric conditions that precluded them from obtaining assistance from relief agencies directly.

Some people with disabilities were left behind in evacuated buildings because rescue agencies didn’t fully understand how someone could not be aware of the evacuation effort. Relief workers often had difficulty understanding why the public transportation shutdown prevented people from accessing emergency assistance. Emergency housing and shelters were not adequately equipped for people who need accessible lodging. Trauma counselors didn’t always fully appreciate the experience of trying to remain independent when routine services and supports have gone to hell.

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