About The Film
“The Right to be Rescued” is a short documentary that tells the stories of people with disabilities affected by Hurricane Katrina. Released days before the 10th anniversary of the storm, our goal is to make emergency planners aware of the specific needs of people with disabilities and push them to alter their disaster plans to make sure those needs are met. You can help! We will provide links or DVDs to anyone who would like to screen this film for emergency planners and others in their community. Contact us to find out how.
- The Right To Be Rescued: Disability Justice in an Age of Disaster by Adrien Wiebgen
- Quick Guide on Accommodations for People with Disabilities for Emergency Planners
- Settlement in New York City that details changes to their emergency plan [PDF]
- FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration & Coordination
- Portlight Strategies
- City of New Orleans Department of Health
- “Just In Case: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers” by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging – National Family Caregiver Support Program [PDF]
- The National Disability Rights Network’s Disaster Management Page
- Disability Rights Washington’s Emergency Preparedness Page
- Red Cross Preparedness Page for People with Disabilities
Why We Made “The Right to be Rescued”
On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast, many familiar phrases will briefly re-enter our daily lexicon: levees, the Superdome, Lower Ninth, FEMA trailers. And lots of anger and sadness and pain will return to millions of Gulf Coast residents who have largely tried to forget and move on.
You will hear a lot of about how the storm disproportionately affected people of color and people with low income, as you rightly should. The storm’s impact and the human-caused problem of levee failure seemed designed to impact that community, while the tourist friendly areas of the city went comparatively unscathed.
What you probably won’t hear about very much is the enormous impact this disaster had on people with disabilities, our focus at Rooted in Rights. They, too, were disproportionately affected, but just not because of Mother Nature.
I traveled to New Orleans to ask people with disabilities and disability rights advocates what happened. The answer was simple and sad: There was no plan to rescue them.
There was no plan to transport wheelchairs or provide electricity for ventilators. There was no pre-planning for evacuating hospitals and nursing homes. No accommodations were made for people who are Deaf or blind inside emergency shelters. The list goes on, touching on every right that people with disabilities fight to have in everyday life, which simply went unaccounted for in the emergency. This wasn’t a plan that overlooked inconveniences that everyone experiences in these scenarios, this was a plan that overlooked important, life-preserving accommodations that many people with disabilities need in order to live.
During Katrina, people with disabilities were denied the right to be rescued.
But this film is not an exposé of New Orleans or other Gulf communities. It is not, and is not meant to be, another in a long list of excellent and important documentaries and articles that have taken government leaders to task for what has happened. There is no reason to ask the people we interviewed to recount the painful stories of friends and family who died during the storm if there is no hope that things will change.
That’s where you come in. Use our film. Show it to your local city council, your county government, or the person who handles evacuations at your school or business. If there’s no information about emergency preparedness for people with disabilities on your local Red Cross or disaster agency’s website, call them. Make them listen.
A hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, but earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, heat waves, chemical spills, and countless other disasters can strike everywhere else. The whole point of emergency planning is to think ahead. We need emergency planners everywhere to think ahead about everybody.
The cost comes in the lives of people, like those in New Orleans and elsewhere, who were ignored, forgotten, and abandoned when the flood waters rose.
Everybody has the right to be rescued.