Preparing for Emergencies When You’re Blind or Visually Impaired

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Ad Council recently launched a video showcasing people with disabilities and the importance of good emergency preparedness. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes of the 21st century. The video shows people with disabilities preparing for everyday activities, and emphasizes the importance of making an emergency kit and plan.

As a blind person, I often have to organize and prepare well in advance if I want things to run smoothly. When I go to new places, for example, I first have to think of how I will get there. This takes extra time and planning, but those of us with disabilities do it constantly, and it has become routine. Why is it then that a lot of us – whether disabled or not – don’t take the time to prepare for emergencies or disasters? Many of us have never experienced natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and we may think it will never happen to us or our loved ones.

Blind and visually impaired people have to take additional things into consideration when preparing for emergencies. How will we keep record of important names, addresses, etc.? Sighted people can easily keep a notepad or folder with printed material, but if you can’t see you have to consider things like Braille, audio cassettes and digital recorders to keep track. What will we do regarding transportation to safe areas and finding our loved ones? It might be a good idea for blind and visually impaired individuals to familiarize themselves with these locations when making the emergency plan. Do we have extra supplies like canes and chargers or batteries for adaptive devices? Those who use dog guides also have to consider the needs of their service animal.

We can all learn a lot, both from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and from this PSA. Watching the video and reading about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reminded me that we should all take the time to think about and prepare for emergencies before it’s too late.

You can find the PSA and resources on how to prepare for emergencies here http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2015/07/23/fema-ad-council-launch-new-psa-focused-people-disabilities-preparing. Do you have an emergency plan prepared? What tips or suggestions would you give to blind and visually impaired readers regarding emergency preparedness?

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