Deaf in Disaster or Emergency Situations

Posted on 12 September 2007. Filed under: Advocacy, Announcements, Audism, Deaf Community |

 What happens to Deaf people during disasters like the events of September 11, 2001, or during the Katrina hurricane?  What happens to deaf and hard of hearing people, or people with disabilities generally?  Unfortunately, we know that accommodations for people with disabilities generally tend to be very limited.  How many wheelchair users died on Sept 11 because they did not have an evacuation chair and a team of co-workers ready to take them down the stairs — instead of being forced to wait for help that never arrived?  How often have Deaf people been the last people to know critical information that could help save their lives, because television wasn’t captioned and radio wasn’t accessible?  How many Deaf (or disabled) people found emergency shelters to be accessible?

Have YOU been affected by a disaster or emergency situation?  If so, YOUR story of how you were affected could help other Deaf people (and people with disabilities) in the United States benefit from better emergency planning in the future.
The US National Coalition on Disabilities is gathering feedback from people.  But there isn’t much time left.  They need to receive your  comments by SEPTEMBER 16.  That means you have the rest of this week, including the weekend, to think about what information and documentation you want to share and write it up.  (They started gathering feedback several months ago.  But I did not realize in time to announce it here.  Apologies for the late notice.)

Learn more about the feedback process and what kind of information would be most helpful by going to this web site:


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3 Responses to “Deaf in Disaster or Emergency Situations”

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I had already written about that in my blog a year ago or so, related to Katrina and 9/11. Interesting enough, there IS laws to protect disabled people, sadly states don’t follow up with the laws and regulations. Even Red Cross would resist getting an interpreter ’til it “HAFTA TO.” Too many deaf folks and volunteer interpreters tell me over and over that they are not “heard.”

How many wheelchair users did die on Sept 11???
How many deaf people have died because they were the last to learn critical information that could have saved their lives?
Do you have these numbers?

My 16 month old daughter is deaf and while she has a CI and has great access to sound, things like this do cross my mind.

I don’t have the numbers. I suspect that it would be next to impossible to find such numbers for deaf people who died due to lack of information simply because, one, I don’t think there are many attempts, if any, to formally count these kinds of numbers in order to get precise statistics and, two, it would be hard to determine after the fact exactly why a person died. (Were they still stuck in a dangerous situation because they learned of the warnings through hearing neighbors but decided to ignore them–in the same way that hearing able-bodied people sometimes ignore warnings? Or were they stuck there because they had no car and the provisions for people who don’t drive were very inadequate– in the same way that hearing people without cars also sometimes get stuck in these situations, such as during Katrina? [Most deaf people do drive, just like most hearing people. But people who are very poor–whether deaf or hearing–might not be able to afford cars; elderly people, deaf or hearing, may be no longer able to drive, same for people with epilepsy or who have vision impairments.] Or were they stuck there because they never received the warning in time? How can we know after the fact in order to count them accurately?)

But in regard to wheelchair users on Sept 11 — you can try looking around the NCD website among their reports on your own, but I recall reading somewhere that eyewitnesses who came down the World Trade Center that day reportedly saw dozens of people in wheelchairs crowded near the fire exits just waiting for fire fighters to come rescue them. I believe there is only one known wheelchair user who is known to have successfully escaped the World Trade Center that day (I could be mistaken on this point) — and that’s because he had an evacuation chair and a team of co-workers who volunteered to help carry him down the stairs.

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