According to Disability.Gov, more than 54 million people in the United States live with a disability of some kind, whether sensory, physical, intellectual, developmental, emotional or mental. Passed just 22 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is landmark legislation for our country because it advanced the civil rights of people who have disabilities. In short, the ADA guarantees equal access for all. But the ADA was just the first of many laws written to benefit persons with disabilities—the Assistive Technology Act, Fair Housing Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.)
One valuable Ready.Gov’s online resource for this group of individuals is a customized portion of the Be Ready Campaign, created specifically for people who have disabilities (and their friends and family). Still following the basic program guidelines to be informed, make a plan and build a kit, the Emergency Preparedness Plan for people with disabilities is unique in that it takes into account the unique challenges which face disabled people deal with when it comes to preparing and responding to natural and manmade disasters. I think there should be a third category added…feline created disasters. All of the cats I’ve ever known create disasters wherever they go.
Although specific steps will vary depending on each individual’s specific disability, these are some of the highlights of the Be Ready Campaign for Americans with Disabilities:
- Be Informed. Your ability to recover from an emergency tomorrow may depend on the planning and preparation you do today. Whether or not you have a disability, you need to be aware of the emergencies which would likely affect your region. To find out, go to Ready.gov/be-informed. Please note that you may need to adapt the information you find to your personal circumstances. For instance, I adapt all of the instructions since I don’t have opposable thumbs. Pretty impressive I’ve been able to overcome it in order to type out my blog each week, wouldn’t you say?
- Make a Communications Plan. A disaster can interfere with your ability to communicate with family, friends or those you work with. For this reason, it’s imperative you create a plan for staying in touch with your support network. This can be particularly difficult to do if your disability involves speaking, mobility or hearing. Nevertheless, it is just as important (maybe even more so) for you to plan to communicate with your friends and family in a disaster regardless of the specific challenges you face. My family and I are going to rely on the Twilight Bark.
- Get Involved. As a person who faces particular challenges with regard to preparing for and responding to emergencies, you undoubtedly have worthwhile information to share with emergency planners. So, if at all possible, help your community by contributing to community and neighborhood emergency preparedness activities. Your insight could help assist people with disabilities with access and functional requirements whose needs could otherwise be forgotten. People who have disabilities often have first-hand experience adapting and problem solving. And these are useful skills in emergencies. I also find it a useful skill to be able to mark my territory. But I don’t recommend it for humans.
The RJWestmore Training System is committed to including resources for Americans with Disabilities in our materials, as well…even going so far as to provide easy access to a screen inside the training system which enables subscribers to register their special assistance status. This information is critical because, as soon as first responders are notified about emergency situations, while they are still en route, they understand special steps which might be necessary to rescue and assist disabled personnel well before they arrive on scene. Since every second is crucial in virtually any disaster, the notification system is extremely helpful and can even save lives. RJWestmore special assistance registration is confidential. You gotta hand it to the folks at RJWestmore Inc. They think of everything.
The Disability.Gov website is a valuable resource because it provides free comprehensive information about disability programs and services available nationwide including material about protecting your civil rights. If you are among the Americans who live with a disability of any kind, you can check out the site to learn about your rights relative to employment, discrimination, filing complaints and ADA and related legislation enforcement. What’s more, you can find out how to apply for benefits, obtain health care, find a job and pay for housing. But you won’t be able to find out how to get a discount on beef jerky. For that, I’d recommend doing a Google search.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.