One of the many responsibilities of local government is to make sure that their citizens are safe and protected from harm. Recent events have served as a poignant reminder that this level of safety also includes helping people prepare for and respond to emergency situations. This is why local governments have emergency preparedness programs, and the court system has ruled that these programs must be accessible to those with disabilities, under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
If you have a child or dependent with disabilities, it is essential that you understand how the ADA should be working to make sure your loved one has access to these emergency systems. Even though these management practices are in place under the court rulings, certain issues still have a high impact on individuals with disabilities. Here are a few ways that you can help and make sure that your local government is helping keep individuals with disabilities safe.
Unfortunately, many traditional emergency notification methods are not usable or accessible by people with disabilities. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to respond to audible alerts, while those who are visually impaired, may not see flashing lights or other visible warning signs. A combination of notification method should be used to keep more of the population informed of potential emergencies.
Individuals with disabilities often face many challenges when evacuating in an emergency. Your community should have evacuation plans that enable people with mobility, vision, hearing or cognitive disabilities to be able to safely leave either on their own or with the assistance of others. Some communities have voluntary registries of persons with disabilities who may need individual evacuation assistance that can help the community make certain they are getting the extra attention they need. Accessible vehicles are also, of course, a ubiquitous tool in assisting with evacuations.
In some emergencies, an individual with disabilities may be required to leave their home and find refuge in a shelter. There are several steps that the community should be taking to ensure that individuals with disabilities can safely access this type of accommodation. Including:
- Ensuring community shelters have access points for persons with disabilities
- Working with group homes to make sure people with disabilities and their families know which shelters can accommodate those with disabilities in an emergency
- Adopting procedures to make sure individuals with disabilities are not separated from their service animals
- Train shelter staff on providing accessible communication tactics to those with hearing and vision problems
Returning Home After an Emergency
Following an emergency, when an individual with disabilities can leave their home, they may face certain setbacks, or find that their home was damaged and therefore no longer accessible because of their disability. Communities should have temporary accessible housing, such as accessible hotel rooms or temporary portable trailers available for those with disabilities if they are not able to immediately return home after a disaster.
If you have questions about the ADA, your local governments emergency practices or what you can do to help your loved one with disabilities regarding these issues, legal advice may help. Call the experts at Hegwood Law Group a call at (281) 885-8826.