Bill to Improve Assistance to People with Disabilities During Natural Disasters Has Passed

In a rare nod to the disabled community, President Trump signed into law a bill that would require the federal government to ensure the safety of people with disabilities during times of disasters such as hurricanes, fires, and other crises. A new committee will be tasked to create protocols.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act will charge the committee with reviewing existing policies and proposing a new protocol to ensure the well being of those with disabilities during a catastrophic event. The committee will be comprised of government officials, health care professionals, and people with disabilities.

This measure comes on the heels of a report produced by the nonpartisan government accountability office that concluded that people with disabilities and individuals over age 65 “faced particular challenges evacuating to safe shelter, accessing medicine and obtaining recovery assistance” during the 2017 hurricane season.

According to the report the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partners struggled to meet specific needs for people who require specialized assistance obtaining food, water, medicine, and oxygen. The report suggests that a lack of clarity in the questions related to people with disabilities in the registration packet could be the reason for this unfortunate confusion. This may have caused people with disabilities to not properly fill out information relating to accommodations.

In a separate report conducted by the National Council on Disability, they found that people with disabilities and the elderly faced trouble leaving their home and finding safety.

The new bill was proposed by Jim Langevin, who has a disability himself.

“No American should ever feel like they might be left behind or forgotten when disaster strikes… by including people with disabilities as advisors during disaster planning and policy development, this bill ensures that the unique needs of this vulnerable community will be included,” said Langevin.