"Disasters negatively affect everyone in the community, but individuals with disabilities may encounter unexpected barriers along the road to receiving recovery assistance," said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. "Our goal is to be certain everyone, including persons with disabilities, has accurate and accessible information about available federal and state recovery programs."
In order to achieve this goal, FEMA coordinates efforts with state and local agencies as well as volunteer organizations to identify needs and locate appropriate resources. Some of the areas addressed by FEMA and partner organizations include communication, physical access to facilities and program availability. For example, brochures are translated into Braille, access ramps provide entry into shelters and assistance is offered to fill out forms.
FEMA has a Disability Integration Specialist on site in Georgia to coordinate the various elements of the programs, such as:
- Information is provided in alternate formats, including Braille, American Sign Language and by TTY.
- Individuals with hearing or speech disabilities who use a Text Telephone (TTY) may contact the disaster assistance hotline by calling 1-800-462-7585.
- Individuals who use a videophone may use the Georgia Relay Service to contact the disaster assistance hotline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
- Disaster Recovery Centers are physically accessible for individuals with mobility disabilities.
- Reasonable modifications to policies and programs are made as needed.
The statewide Emergency Preparedness Coalition (EPC) for individuals with disabilities and for older adults is working with FEMA to identify and provide access and functional needs assistance. The EPC network focuses on providing emergency preparedness technical guidance and assistance to organizations that service individuals with disabilities and older adults.
FEMA takes active steps to ensure that the whole community, including people with disabilities, elders and people with low English proficiency, has the same opportunity to benefit from emergency programs, services and activities.
"FEMA's goal is to make the process of recovery available equally to everyone," said Szczech.
For preparedness resources for individuals with disabilities or to learn more about FEMA's commitment to integrating the needs of individuals with functional needs into all aspects of emergency management, please visit www.fema.gov/about/odic.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.