FEMA is committed to preparing individuals and strengthening communities before, during, and after disasters happen. The agency considers the whole community during the planning, response, recovery, and mitigation phases of emergencies.
We work with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and nonprofits and faith-based organizations to meet the needs of the communities we live in. By effectively planning for diverse populations, every person in a community, including people of all ages, disabilities, and access and functional needs, can be better prepared for emergency situations.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 mandate the integration and inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into all emergency management efforts.
To uphold these federal laws and mandates and commitment to whole community emergency planning, FEMA established the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination in 2010 and appointed Marcie Roth as its director. Under her leadership, the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination:
- Provides guidance, tools, methods, and strategies to integrate and coordinate emergency management efforts that meet the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, FEMA hosts disability community stakeholder forums attended by disability groups, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government partners to discuss ways of improving disaster planning and recovery assistance for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
- Increases agency-wide capacity to serve the whole community through Regional Disability Integration Specialists who:
- Advise and collaborate with: community, nonprofit, and disability organizations; local, state, tribal, and territorial governments; and federal agencies, including FEMA program offices, to achieve inclusive, community-wide emergency planning, disaster response and recovery, and mitigation against disasters.
- Work with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners in coordination with the FEMA Individual Assistance program to facilitate training and offer technical assistance to state emergency managers and shelter planners nationwide concerning functional needs support services (FNSS). The training curriculum provides ways to accommodate people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in general population shelters during emergencies, as required by law.
- Promote individual and community emergency preparedness by working with disability groups and state emergency managers to encourage the integration and inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into the local emergency planning process from the beginning.
- Assigns Disability Integration Advisors to serve as members of national FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams and as part of the Command staff at the Joint Field Office (JFO) advising Federal Coordinating Officers. A JFO is a temporary federal multi-agency coordination center for federal, state, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and private sector organizations with primary responsibility for activities associated with threat response and incident support. FEMA Disability Integration Advisors:
- Early in the disaster response, advise the agency and disaster-impacted states about strategies to meet the life-saving and life-sustaining needs, which may include early warning, communication access, evacuation, and transportation needs.
- As part of a team, assess potential building sites for FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) and JFOs to ensure that they meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for physical, programmatic, and effective communication access for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. DRCs are one-stop centers established in communities where disaster survivors may obtain information on available disaster recovery resources. DRCs accommodate the needs of the entire community, including people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
- Train FEMA DRC personnel on assistive technology equipment that allows disaster survivors to use amplified telephones, phones that display text, and amplified listening devices for people with hearing loss. A tablet application makes video relay service available to people who use American Sign Language, allowing them to communicate through an interpreter when registering with a FEMA recovery specialist for disaster assistance. In addition, language applications are used for translation. Also, magnifiers are available for people with vision loss.
- Provide advice pertaining to issues concerning temporary emergency housing, long-term recovery, and other considerations to provide equal access to emergency management programs and services.
For more information about the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, please visit www.fema.gov/about/odic or send an e-mail to
“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.”