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FEMA Goes the Extra Mile for Disaster Survivors with Disabilities and Functional Needs

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Release date: 
October 19, 2011
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ALBANY, N.Y. – Disaster survivors with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are getting a little extra assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as they face the challenge of rebuilding their homes and lives in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

FEMA is committed to making disaster recovery assistance available equally to all survivors, regardless of age or ability. Survivors with functional needs can get extra assistance in the aid application process or with other disaster-related problems through the efforts of FEMA specialists who can help link survivors with appropriate local, state and volunteer agency programs.

“Our goal is to make sure that everyone, including people with access and functional needs, has accurate information about federal and state recovery programs,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Philip E. Parr.

In New York State alone, more than 60 survivors with functional needs have been served by FEMA since Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit this summer. Access and functional needs can include mobility issues, medical conditions affecting vision and hearing, mental health issues or other challenges.

FEMA functional needs specialists work one-on-one with such individuals to make sure their applications are complete. Once the vital first step of registration is done, FEMA can help by answering applicants’ questions about disaster assistance programs and referring people to volunteer organizations or local agencies which can help with specific problems.

Middleburgh resident Diane Cotton’s River Street home was ruined when the Schoharie Creek overtopped its banks during Hurricane Irene this summer. The 76-year-old, who describes herself as deaf, said floodwaters swamped the first floor of the house she occupied since 1992, destroying all her furniture and appliances. She received some extra assistance from a FEMA specialist, who helped her through the application process.

“People have to be patient with me because of my hearing. They have to speak slowly and clearly and I often have to ask them to repeat themselves. The people I have spoken with at FEMA were very kind and compassionate,” Cotton said.

“Everyone at FEMA has treated me with respect. I got such quick attention from everyone, from the first call, to the inspection, to receiving the money in my account. It happened so quickly I was amazed,” Cotton added.

FEMA encourages all disaster survivors affected by Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee to register for assistance. The FEMA Helpline is 1-800-621-3362 (multilingual assistance is available by phone.)  Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, seven days a week until further notice. The TTY line for people with hearing impairments is 1-800-462-7585. Register online at or with a Smartphone at  Applicants should mention any access or functional needs they may have.

Individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are urged to plan ahead to prepare for future emergencies. More information on disaster preparedness can be downloaded from FEMA’s website at

The deadline to apply for disaster assistance connected to Hurricane Irene is Oct. 31, 2011. The deadline to apply for assistance relating to Tropical Storm Lee is Nov. 14, 2011.

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.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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