Rep. Jim Ryun, R‑Topeka, issued a press release about a briefing he co-sponsored last week on emergency preparedness for the disabled. He noted that Katrina reminded us not to forget about people who are physically disabled when planning for emergencies. But his briefing was focused on the deaf and hard of hearing community. This group faces challenges, but isn’t the issue how to transport people who are in wheelchairs, are blind or are in other ways physically unable to evacuate on their own?
That’s what the editors of the Wichita Eagle say on their blog. I’m inclined to agree. I seem to remember that when I looked at the legislation Ryun has sponsored, there was a surprising emphasis on the hard of hearing. I have no beef with that, it’s just interesting to note.
While the disabled have special challenges in escaping impending disasters (and we can expect no less of a disease outbreak), Katrina revealed that more than physical ability, economic ability is the key challenge to mobility in a crisis. The disabled have special limits because it costs more to move a person in a wheelchair, but it’s not clear that it costs more to move a deaf person or even a blind person. The deaf and blind have special problems in getting news of an evacuation order, but the deaf have TV and the blind have radio.
I don’t disagree with improving emergency preparedness, nor with paying special attention to people in special circumstances. I just wonder whether there aren’t ways of improving preparedness that will help many more people, including these special groups.