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Federal family connects with disability advocates, hires advisors

Posted by: Marcie Roth, Director, FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination

Officials at the federal, state and local levels met Feb.13 with dozens of advocacy groups that came together from New York and New Jersey to focus on disaster recovery issues for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

Additionally, more than 15 local residents were hired by mid-February as disability integration professionals at the local level in the two states.

These are two steps taken recently to assure that the whole community is involved in planning and delivery of services for Hurricane Sandy survivors.

Dan Alexander, federal disaster recovery coordinator, and Timothy Gelston, field coordinator for Community Planning and Capacity Building, spoke at the Feb. 13 Manhattan gathering of representatives of more than 80 groups that advocate for disability and access and functional needs inclusion. The FEMA officials, both working in New York, spoke about the commitment of the federal family to inclusion of the whole community in all aspects of disaster recovery. They emphasized that all projects funded with support from the federal government must embrace a similar commitment and solicited those present for their ideas about ways to involve the whole community in recovery.

Meanwhile, more than 15 disability integration advisors, trainers, liaisons and interpreters were hired as members of neighborhood task forces. Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination, often referred to simply as recovery coordination, brings together federal, state, tribal and local resources from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Neighborhood task forces bring that coordination to the most local level possible.

The advisors build strategic partnerships with local officials and community leaders to assure that the whole community can participate in meetings where recovery is discussed. Advisors address physical access issues, making certain that people with accessibility needs can get to meeting sites and get around inside buildings where meetings are held. They also make sure information is available in all appropriate formats, which may include Braille, large print, amplified audio, sign language and all languages that are commonly spoken in the community.

Advisors focus on rebuilding issues ranging from accessible transportation and evacuation issues to accessible and visitable housing and community resources.

These actions represent a continuation of an ongoing commitment. Earlier actions have included:

  • Collaboration among officials and stakeholder groups in the immediate aftermath of the disaster
  • Providing communication accessibility  tools for disaster survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have other communication access requirements so they can register for disaster assistance
  • Disability-inclusive whole community training for recovery workers

Additional information about the federal family’s commitment to whole community recovery is available on the web page for FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.

Last Updated: 
02/21/2013 - 10:22