Disabled Populations and People with Functional Limitations
The Promising Practices
Vulnerable Populations Action Team
Seattle King County Public Health
When Words Are Not Enough
Woodside Fire Protection District
OK-WARN: A Remote Notification Program for the Hearing Impaired
Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
Oklahoma City, OK
The Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP)
Fort Worth Office of Emergency Management
Fort Worth, TX
There are many people with conditions that make them unusually vulnerable to harm during a public health emergency. Among them are those who are visually, hearing or speaking, or cognitively impaired as well as those with physical limitations. Moreover, people with a health condition such as pregnancy, obesity, asthma, or diabetes may have mobility limitations like those with physical disabilities. As a result, it is important for planners to consider a wide range of functional limitations that constrain the capacity of an individual to react to a public health emergency.
There are a number of issues relevant to developing emergency response plans for these populations:
- Both the level of disability or functional limitation and the nature and severity of the emergency event will vary widely; these are significant factors in determining the extent to which an individual will need assistance; and
- People who are visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, or cognitively impaired are limited in their ability to receive warning messages or to communicate.
Effective public health emergency preparedness planning also requires consideration of points critical to each individual population:
- In dangerous environments or cluttered areas, visually impaired individuals are at increased risk of injuries, particularly if they become separated from their service animals or assistive devices (e.g., canes).
- Cognitively impaired persons may not understand what is happening or be able to cope with the event; they may become easily confused and upset in unfamiliar surroundings, with people they do not know, or in unusual situations, particularly those that are chaotic.
- Cognitively impaired persons may be particularly vulnerable if they become separated from caregivers or are in mass shelters where others may take advantage of their limitations.
- Physical limitations can reduce mobility raising concerns for both evacuation and navigating mass care shelters.
Strategies and Resources for Addressing the Public Health Emergency Needs of Populations with Functional Limitations
|Why is this group at greater risk?||How can planners help this group?||What resources are available to help?|
|Difficulty planning due to population's diverse needs|| |
|Communication challenges|| |
|Difficulty navigating unfamiliar surroundings|| |
|Service disruptions|| |
|Evacuation challenges|| |
|Challenges of mass care shelters|| |