Helping people with disabilities before, during and after disasters.
What We Do
Our office helps FEMA deliver the agency’s shared mission of helping people before, during and after disasters in ways that maximize the inclusion of, and accessibility for, people with disabilities.
We provide federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the public sector and non-profit organizations with the tools, training, resources and strategies necessary to help ensure that people with disabilities can participate in, and benefit from, programs and services during all phases of emergency management.
We are organized into two branches. Our Cadre Management and Training Branch deploys Disability Integration Advisors and Disability Integration Specialists to support senior leadership as well as individual program in the Joint Field Office during disasters. The deployable staff are specialized advisors who provide advisory services, technical assistance and risk management consultation related to accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Our Program and Policy Branch provides technical assistance to FEMA leadership, as well as to FEMA programs and components, to ensure that FEMA programs and services are meeting the needs of people with disabilities before, during and after disasters.
Cadre Management and Training Branch
The Cadre Management and Training Branch equips members of FEMA’s Disability Integration Cadre to be trained and prepared to mobilize quickly to disasters. At disaster locations, they serve as high-level advisors to FEMA leadership regarding the needs of people with disabilities. They also:
- Provide technical assistance, training and resources to ensure FEMA’s programs and services are accessible to, and available for, people with disabilities impacted by disasters.
- Engage with state, local, tribal, territorial NGO, and private sector partners to provide information and referral, training and technical assistance on inclusive emergency management practices.
The Disability Integration Cadre is comprised of Disability Integration Advisors and Disability Integration Specialists. In the wake of a disaster, Disability Integration Advisors deploy to impacted communities where they work closely with the federal coordinating officer, chief of staff and other key decision makers, providing technical expertise on the demographics of the impacted area, advising on accessibility of FEMA programs, providing training to field staff, ensuring that policies and programs include the needs of people with disabilities, and engaging with community leaders on disability topics in emergency management. As disaster operations expand in scope and resources, Disability Integration Specialists may deploy to add additional support.
Program and Policy Branch
The Program and Policy Branch provides technical assistance to FEMA leadership, programs and services to deliver the agency’s mission of helping people before, during and after disasters, focusing on integrating the needs of people with disabilities into those programs and services. This branch:
- Works with FEMA program offices to develop strategies to promote the integration of the needs of people with disabilities into the design and implementation of new programs, as well as identifying potential barriers to access and developing strategies to eliminate those barriers.
- Works with internal and external stakeholders to assess and increase disability competency and capacity to serve people with disabilities across the spectrum of emergency preparedness and response.
- Provides data-driven, decision support tools to the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, the Disability Integration Cadre and agency leadership. This includes the Disability Demographics and Program Utilization Report, a series of research studies on the experience and utilization of FEMA programs among people with disabilities who applied for FEMA assistance.
In 2007, FEMA appointed a disability coordinator as required by the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act in 2006. The disability coordinator advises the FEMA Administrator on issues concerning people with disabilities before, during and after disasters. The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination was created in 2010 to support the work of the disability coordinator.
View FEMA’s Strategic Plan to read more about how FEMA is working to integrate the needs of people with disabilities in all aspects of our agency and the communities we serve.
Featured News: Listen as ODIC Director Sherman Gillums describes improvements being made in FEMA program delivery and how to engage persons with disabilities.
Inclusive Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness
FEMA facilitates inclusive emergency management and disaster preparedness by:
- Advising state, local, tribal and territorial partners on evacuation planning and accessible transportation for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
- Equipping FEMA disaster recovery centers with communication devices that allow people who are blind or have low vision and people who are deaf or hard of hearing or have other communication access needs to receive disaster information first hand.
- Improving our disaster housing strategies and guidance so that people with disabilities have access to general shelters and temporary housing that meet their needs and help keep families together.
- Sharing the Functional Needs Support Services Guidance with state, local, tribal and territorial partners. The guide provides strategies on, among other things, practical cot and sleeping arrangements for evacuees with disabilities, assistance with personal care, hygiene and dietary needs, and accommodating service animals alongside disaster survivors in the shelter.
- Following a disaster, handing out recovery information published in native languages and alternate formats such as Braille and large print.
- Registering disaster survivors for federal assistance with mobile devices at their homes or temporary shelters.
- Including captioning and ASL interpretation in video products and webinars.
- Procuring and distributing durable medical equipment and other medical supplies.
- Coordinating with state, local, tribal and territorial officials in their efforts to identify potential needs of people with disabilities and address shortfalls in disaster response and recovery.
We Prepare Every Day Videos
The "We Prepare Every Day" videos have practical preparedness tips for everyone and shows people with disabilities taking charge to prepare themselves and their families for disasters and emergencies. The video provides equal access and includes open captioning, a certified deaf interpreter and audio description. Visit our resource page to take charge of your own preparedness.
Sherman Gillums Jr. serves as the FEMA Disability Coordinator and Director of the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC) in Washington DC. Placed within the Office of the Administrator, Director Gillums leads the office’s efforts to instill equity in the planning and delivery of FEMA programs and activities before, during, and after disasters, with respect to the needs of individuals with disabilities.
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