Disability Equity During Disasters

A Toolkit for Passing the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA)

August 2021

All too often, the disaster-related needs of disabled people are overlooked or ignored. Disabled people face often insurmountable barriers during and after disasters, resulting in disabled people and older adults being two to four times more likely to die or be seriously injured during a disaster. This is the direct result of the discrimination and exclusion we face in disaster planning and preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts.

We know all too well the many stories of preventable harm to our community: inaccessible communications systems that leave people without access to information about escalating conditions or evacuation plans; barriers to safe evacuations that leave people stuck in disaster zones; failure to plan for emergency electricity needs; inaccessible shelters and disaster recovery centers; inaccessible registration processes for aid, housing, and other critical services; loss of healthcare and long term services and supports; involuntary institutionalizations; and the many other barriers and violations of our rights that result in tragedy.

The egregious failures to meet our needs before, during, and after disasters are a violation of our civil rights. Changing this is a matter of survival.

Congress has reintroduced two important bills: the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act (S. 2658 / H.R. 4938) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) (S. 2646 / H.R. 4937). These bills will help address and dismantle the barriers disabled people face before, during, and after disasters. They will help ensure the diverse voices of disabled people and older adults are included in disaster preparation and help remedy many of the barriers disabled people across the country face. As disasters continue to increase in frequency and severity, and as we continue to deal with disasters on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to pass these bills has never been greater.

This toolkit is designed to help you understand the barriers disaster-impacted disabled people and older adults face, explain how the REAADI for Disasters Act and DRMA would help address them, and provide tools to help you with your advocacy efforts. Together, we can get the REAADI for Disasters Act and DRMA passed into law!