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Katrina, disaster, people with disabilities

Sept. 6, 2005 -- THERE ARE NO disaster services specifically in place to help people with disabilities in the Gulf Coast area. That's the conclusion to be made from examining site information and emails we have received over the past days.

Virtually all information being distributed throughout cyberspace relating to disabled people and Katrina also gets posted at the Dimenet Hot News Network. We cannot do better than that. United Cerebral Palsy has set-up an emergency hotline for United Cerebral Palsy of New Orleans. Concerned consumers and their families, employees and volunteers can call (800) 872-5827 to receive information, as well as leave messages about their personal status. People can also visit the UCP of Greater New Orleans Web site at www.ucpgno.org to leave messages for consumers and employees. National and regional staff will monitor both message systems

Most disabled people suffering in Katrina's wake did not and do not have transportation.

Accessible housing -- certainly accessible emergency shelter -- by and large does not exist.

Buses are not accessible. Transportation is not accessible. Schoolbuses? In this emergency evacuation, lifts are not being used. Witness photo after photo of someone taken out of a wheelchair and lifted into a bus, onto a truck, into a van. As in many third-world nations, people who can't walk are being carried.

The first-line response of officials was to herd people into the Superdome, just as the first-line response in 9/11 was to herd people onto the top floors of the towers. In both cases, the decision was foolhardy, ridiculous.

There has been meeting after meeting about "emergency preparedness" in the wake of 9/11. Here are two we came across through the Dimenet postings:

National Organization on Disability Emergency Preparedness Initiative

Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions webpage on Emergency Evacuation Preparedness

Our assessment of emergency plans: most offer decent ideas, but implementation is missing. (See Langevin Faults Capitol Evacuation Plans for Lack of Access)

The real problems are inequity, poverty, groups of people that nobody really cares whether they have adequate resources or not. The problem is inaccessibility -- and it doesn't seem that it will change. That was true before Katrina, and it's true now. Whether the fingerpointing and shifting around that will occur in coming months will make "disaster preparedness" any better for crips is anybody's guess.

Visit the Dimenet Hot News Network

Posted Sept. 6, 2005.

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