The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (The Partnership) is the only national membership organization with a mission of equal access to emergency and disaster programs before, during and after disasters for people with disabilities. We are the nation’s experts on disability rights, accessibility, and inclusion throughout all phases of disaster operations.
In early 2017, the Partnership was launched to address an ongoing crisis, where the disability and aging community leaders realized no one was inviting us to disaster planning tables. We decided to act.
Meanwhile, 2017 was also an unprecedented year of disasters in the United States:
- 16 disasters caused approximately $306 billion in damage
- Wildfires in California and other western states added $18 billion in damage.
- 3 Major Hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Harvey flooded Houston and other parts of Texas, leaving $125 billion worth of destruction.
- Hurricanes Irma and Maria added another $140 billion
2017 was the most expensive year on record for wildfires and hurricanes.
The Partnership’s initiatives reveal disturbing patterns:
Federal and State disaster spending too often fails to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Older adults and people with disabilities are two to four times more likely to be injured or to lose their lives in disasters. These are preventable.
During disasters, the Partnership and our stakeholders from across the country mobilized with daily teleconferences to assist people with disabilities, older adults and others who also have access and functional needs in disaster-impacted areas.
Bringing disability stakeholders together from around the country, showcased how disaster infrastructure neglects people with disabilities and older adults. Together, we forged solutions with our allies
The Disaster Hotline (800) 626-4959
The Partnership started a Disaster Hotline the day after hurricane Harvey made landfall and its been operating 24/7 ever since to assist disaster impacted people with disabilities.
The Disaster Hotline provides information, referrals, guidance, technical assistance and resources to people with disabilities, their families, allies and organizations assisting disaster impacted individuals with disabilities and others seeking assistance with immediate and urgent disaster-related needs.
The Disaster Hotline is always available for intake calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at (800) 626-4959 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Our knowledgeable team responds to calls as soon as possible, often immediately, and we intend to respond to all callers within 24 hours.
During the first 6 months of operation, the Hotline received, and resolved, over 3,000 calls from disaster-impacted individuals with disabilities looking for support.
The Partnership’s Civil Rights Focus
Although all federal money, including the funds spent on disasters, is required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in disasters, without exception, there is no meaningful accountability to ensure emergency programs and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities and older adults throughout preparedness, response, and recovery.
We’ve seen many ways civil rights are violated in disaster response:
- Emergency alerts may not be accessible or fail to provide actionable information to people with sensory, intellectual, communication and mental health disabilities.
- Health maintenance is denied, resulting in preventable deterioration of health, safety, and independence.
- Individuals are denied access to shelters with their service animals.
- Older adults and disabled individuals, who lived independently before a disaster, may be sent to a nursing home against their will.
- Shelters may have accessibility barriers, such as toilets and showers that are inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities.
The Partnership advocates for monitoring and enforcement of all federal disaster spending in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 without exception.
In 2018, we published a report, Getting It Wrong: An Indictment with a Blueprint for Getting it Right, to review and document the experiences and civil rights violations of people with disabilities in the 2017 disasters.
REAADI & DRM
In the Partnership’s first two years we’ve led grassroots initiatives to drive change but it became clear: there is a critical need for the United States to invest in disaster infrastructure that will meaningfully address the needs of persons with disabilities and aging communities.
The Partnership, our members and allies worked with Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania to develop and promote disaster legislation that prioritizes the lives and rights of people with disabilities, older adults and many others who also have access and functional needs. Our Portlight Fellowships allowed us to place Fellows at the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Council on Independent Living and the Center for American Progress to provide input into the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion Act (REAADI) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRM).
REAADI & DRM Partners
National Council for Independent Living (NCIL)
NCIL, is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation
Center for American Progress (CAP)
The Center for American Progress, CAP, is an independent nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action. “Our aim is not just to change the conversation, but to change the country.”