I’m usually pretty light-hearted in my posts, but Syracuse was right in the path of Hurricane Sandy, which suddenly dodged west earlier than expected, leaving us with rain and winds, but no significant damage.
I am watching the images on television and in newspapers, and while my heart aches for everyone affected by Sandy, I can’t stop thinking about people with disabilities. It is hard to get information when emergency broadcasts are not always captioned (although I was pleased to see interpreters by NYC mayor Bloomberg every time he made an announcement to the press, as shown in this amusin post about Bloomberg’s bilingual announcements). Even now, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other online news services are not captioning videos. When electricity goes out, assistive technology and medical equipment fail. People with physical disabilities often have difficulty finding accessible shelters or getting out of buildings in emergencies. Medications can’t be refilled. Extreme changes in weather can also exacerbate disabilities (for example, my asthma flared as the weather worsened, leaving me back on steroids temporarily). I am still haunted by images from Katrina of people who had died sitting in their wheelchairs in abandoned hospitals, stadiums, and neighborhood streets, covered by sheets and left for emergency workers to find. The current director of FEMA wrote about this in 2010, in an article for CNN, where he says:
“The root of the problem lies here: Historically the U.S. emergency management field has treated people with disabilities as a separate population, rather than as part of the larger community. This limited approach not only directly violates the intent of the ADA, but ties up personnel and resources when a disaster strikes. It jeopardizes everyone’s safety.”
So as you keep everyone in Sandy’s path in your thoughts and prayers, take a moment to acknowledge adults and children with disabilities who are facing additional barriers to safety, shelter, services, information, health equipment, rescuers, or medical care right now.
And in case you want to do something, check out this link on CNN and then help in whatever ways you can.