The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was hiring Regional Disability Integration Specialists in each of its 10 regional offices. Advocates have urged FEMA to put disability specialists in the regions to help ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are addressed during disaster planning, response, and recovery efforts.
The Grant Programs Directorate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent an information bulletin to state emergency management officials to remind them of the importance of including the needs of people with disabilities and other functional needs in their 2011 grant applications. The bulletin gave examples of how to integrate disability access into planning and making decisions about purchasing equipment and supplies, such as including people with disabilities in planning, providing training to emergency managers, and making shelters accessible. See the bulletin on the FEMA website.
The Department of Health and Human Services is offering relief to the states hard hit by the recent tornadoes and storms. In a letter to Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee, Secretary Sebelius outlines ways states can immediately expand access to health care by providing temporary increases in Medicaid income eligibility limits and removing resource tests. States can also allow residents who may have lost documents in the storm to certify their income and residency, and can delay the process of re-determining whether an individual remains eligible for Medicaid. The Secretary assured the affected states that HHS would act quickly to approve any needed state plan changes or waivers.
Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent four Regional Disability Integration Specialists to Region IV to assist in those states impacted by the storms.
A Federal District Court in California ruled that the city of Los Angeles failed to adequately prepare to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in the event of a disaster in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The court said that the city violated the rights of people with disabilities by failing to plan for accessible emergency shelters, transportation, and communications. The court ordered city officials to meet with representatives of the disability community to prepare a proposal to remedy the problems. For more information, see http://disabilityrightslegalcenter.org/documents/PressRelease-CourtFindsCityofLADiscriminatesAgainstPeopleWithDisabilitiesinEmergencyPlans.pdf