Lack of Information During Hurricane for PWD

Sep 08, 2011
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New York was one of the states that got hit by Hurricane Irene. Before the arrival of Irene, evacuation details/plans and other services were be announced to all areas affected. However, the disability community in Brooklyn felt that services and information were not available for people with a wide range of disabilities. Marvin Wasserman, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence for the Disabled (BCID), has been receiving numerous complaints.

The reason for the large number of complaints in the Brooklyn area specifically is because of a large population of people with disabilities. The disability community comprises 26 percent of the population in Brooklyn. Also, Brooklyn was the focus of the city’s efforts for emergency preparedness because the borough hosts the largest swaths of low-lying areas susceptible to the greatest damage from the hurricane. Other areas that have a big population of people with disabilities include Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Red Hook.

With such a large disability community in several areas, why were there a lack of information. The BCID reported that little information was available and no discernible outreach was directed for people with disabilities. Also, phone lines were jammed and both the and the council’s websites were down.

“When you look at the broad range of disabilities, you quickly realize there is no single reliable source of information that the community can access. For instance, citizens are encouraged to pack am/fm radios in their “go bags,” but that won’t help people who are deaf or hard of hearing. There is no indication that the designated evacuation shelters are wheelchair accessible and the evacuation zone map is in non-accessible PDF format for persons who are blind or have low vision. My calls to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities have thus far not been returned,” Wasserman said.

Today, BCID and the disability community of Brooklyn call on OEM, FEMA and our elected officials to ramp up their planning and outreach efforts to ensure our most vulnerable residents are better protected during all future natural and man-made disasters,” he concluded.

Author: Jenny Carlton