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Disaster

FEMA taken steps toward better supporting individuals with disabilities

Elderly lady walks with walker in the sea

How did older people or those with disabilities fare immediately after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria?

Emergency managers and others told us it was sometimes difficult to locate these survivors and provide the help many needed to find food, medicine, and oxygen. Further, FEMA’s application for assistance contained disability questions that were easily misinterpreted. This may have led to fewer people reporting their disabilities—making it more difficult to help those in need.

In June 2018, FEMA started to shift responsibility for helping people with disabilities affected by disasters away from its staff trained on disability issues to all staff and to state, local, and nonprofit partners.

In our May 2019 report, we recommended, among other things, that FEMA develop plans to train its staff and nonfederal partners on disability issues.

We testified that FEMA has taken steps to implement some recommendations from our report, including planning training for its nonfederal partners on disability issues. However, as of July 2019, FEMA had no written plans to train its own staff.

FEMA has begun a new approach to helping people with disabilities.

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