USA: Recent disasters trigger complaints from disability groups
By Courtney Perkes
The national disability rights group ADAPT recently sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, criticizing the release earlier this year of a strategic plan without “preparedness, planning or response elements” specifically for people with disabilities, unlike past plans that addressed disability rights and accessibility. Meanwhile, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a national coalition, has filed a civil rights complaint naming FEMA and three other federal agencies for failure to provide equal access to shelters.
“These entities need to adhere to the existing laws,” said German Parodi, an ADAPT organizer in Philadelphia. “You don’t hear of 25-year-old able-bodied people being forced into a nursing home because they want to close a shelter.”
“People with disabilities are by law a protected class that the federal government is required to provide equal access to,” [Marcie Roth, CEO of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and FEMA’s former director of disability integration] said. “There are no disaster loopholes. You can’t say, ‘There’s a disaster so therefore we’re going to get to this later.'”
Advocates have expressed concern that not enough federal disability integration advisors have been sent to assist with Hurricane Michael in Florida and Hurricane Florence that struck the Carolinas. As a result, they said some people with disabilities have not been able to get in-person help or information and have been instead directed to the FEMA website or toll-free number.