Thanks to a recently passed law, the U.S. government will have to address the issues facing those with disabilities when hurricanes, fires, and disaster strike. President Trump signed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act on June 24. As part of this law, an Advisory Council will be created, which will include members with disabilities, as well as government officials and healthcare professionals. This Council will focus on preparing for ways to support individuals with disabilities during disasters.
U.S. Rep, Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has a disability himself, proposed the advisory panel. He said, “[b]y including people with disabilities as advisors during disaster planning and policy development, this bill ensures that the unique needs of this vulnerable community will be included.” The Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that those with disabilities and those over 65 years old “faced particular challenges evacuating to safe shelter, accessing medicine and obtaining recovery assistance.”
Another issue for those with disabilities during times of disaster is that they are often unnecessarily institutionalized due to lack of access to resources, amongst other reasons. Hopefully, this Advisory Council will begin to address critical issues facing those with disabilities when disasters strike.