Expanded role for disability rights groups in emergency preparedness plans

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This is a photograph from above of a hurricane. The photo is mostly blue with a swirling white mass that is the hurricane.

A hurricane

The National Disability Rights Network signed an agreement March 11 with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve preparedness plans for people with disabilities in natural disaster situations.

Though the organizations have worked together previously, the agreement ensures NDRN will have the opportunity to collaborate with officials before, during and after emergencies, according to an NDRN news release.

“Our network of Protection and Advocacy Disability Rights affiliates’ expertise represent a unique know-how and understanding that is a valuable source of knowledge to disaster officials at all levels,” said NDRN executive director Curt Decker in the release. “This agreement will help ensure that individuals with disabilities’ accessibility and functional needs will be met so they can survive and recover from a disaster.”

NDRN has long held concerns about the safety of people with disabilities in natural disasters and was heavily involved in assisting people with disabilities following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

In June, FEMA testified in front of a panel of the House Committee on Homeland Security that it did not have a natural disaster plan for people with disabilities, according to Hearst Newspapers. At the time, FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination had one paid full-time position and a working budget of $150,000.

In February, in a first-of-it’s kind ruling, a California district judge ruled that the city of Los Angeles’ emergency preparedness plan violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.