Natural disasters are always inclusive.
Often the response is not.
It was clear from the Christchurch earthquakes that disability support providers, particularly small local rather than national providers, have the same difficulties as other organisations and businesses when there is a major disaster. Access to premises and records, the availability of staff and so on are among them. People may not have access to their regular assistance. So disaster preparedness for the general population must take account of the needs of disabled people, and not silo them off into a separate process, or simply forget about them.
The other day (April 15th) I was listening to Te Ahi Kaa on Radio New Zealand. The programme described setting up the Wainuiomata marae as a welfare centre. They sounded very well organised.
In thinking about their task I reflected on what they could do to set up a really inclusive welfare centre. Of course they might already have thought of these things, or they might already be on the prescribed comprehensive list.
Some of my top of mind considerations:
- Access – Is the building which will house the welfare centre accessible to everyone? Does it meet or exceed NZ Standard for access 4121?
- Reception – Do those who will be the first contact at the centre have disability training so they can recognize and welcome all kinds of disabled people?
- Interpreters – Will each centre have access to New Zealand Sign Language interpreters, or at least people with some grasp of NZ Sign Language? Accessible information will be critical for a number of disabled and other people.
- Accommodations – Will the centre accept and provide water and toileting areas for service dogs?
- Know how – Will those staffing the centre know how to interact with a hard of hearing person? Will they be able to guide and orient a blind person, to assist in a way that preserves the dignity of people with physical impairments who need help with feeding and toileting?
- Be prepared – Will there be emergency supplies for frail elder and those disabled people who may need incontinence products, drinking straws or particular foods?
- Housing – Will those allocating housing and alternative accommodation have some understanding of accessibility?
- Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities (PDF 1.28MB)
Without the direct link to this document, this information would not be very easy to find.
- A free two-day symposium on disability-inclusive emergency preparedness and response: learning from the Canterbury earthquakes is being held in Christchurch on May 28 and 29. Lookout for details on our web site www.accease.com.