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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Inclusive Emergency Management

WHEREAS, people with disabilities are two to four times more likely to be injured or die in a disaster;

WHEREAS, during a disaster, people with disabilities encounter barriers accessing disaster services including emergency notification, evacuation, sheltering, response, registering for (Federal Emergency Management Administration) FEMA disaster assistance, housing, throughout long-term recovery;

WHEREAS, these barriers are not a part of disability or aging; rather, they are the result of the failure to include disability and aging communities in disaster planning, response, recovery, research, and oversight;

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, provide civil rights protections and equal access to all disaster programs and services during disasters, requiring effective communication access to disaster information, physical access to all disaster services, shelters and temporary housing, and program accessibility;

WHEREAS, the Olmstead decision applies in disasters for people with disabilities to receive disaster services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs instead of hospitals or nursing homes;

WHEREAS, institutionalization increases during disasters, such as Texas and Florida, where nursing home admissions increased by over 1,000 during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria, respectively; and

WHEREAS, FEMA fails to take action to meet the needs of people with disabilities, as detailed in the Government Accountability Office Report, FEMA Action Needed to Better Support People with Disabilities and Older Adults;

WHEREAS, in 2018 FEMA Office of Disability and Integration Coordination dismantled key resources, discontinued trainings for FEMA staff and Federal partners, and reduced and eliminated deployed Disability Integration Advisors; and

WHEREAS, FEMA’s Disability Integration Coordinator is failing to fulfill statutory duties to ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are being properly addressed in emergency preparedness and disaster relief;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED NCIL will call on Congress for immediate enforcement of laws and associated funding to meet the civil rights and disaster related needs of all people with disabilities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL will oppose reliance on disaster volunteers, donations and charity as the government’s approach to meet the legal obligations of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL will advocate for the Red Cross, and other recipients of Federal disaster funding, to fulfil their obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Stafford Act, as amended, to provide equal access to all emergency and disaster programs and services before, during and after disasters in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of disaster impacted people with disabilities, without exception;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL will call on the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to monitor and enforce the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL opposes the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issuing waivers in disasters allowing the institutionalization of people with disabilities and older adults; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL will support and advocate for the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act (REAADI) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL will partner with the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies to promote inclusive disaster initiatives to the Independent Living Community; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED NCIL expects FEMA and the Administration for Community Living to lead and provide adequate human and funding resources for a coordinated effort across Federal government agencies, the states, community-based organizations, foundations, and other sectors, in collaboration with people who are aging and people with disabilities serving in leadership roles, aimed at achieving and maintaining compliance with disability civil rights obligations achieving and maintaining on-going planning, preparation, and implementation of inclusive emergency and disaster initiatives.