National Council on Disability on
Hurricane Katrina Affected Areas
People with disabilities in the Gulf Coast areas of Alabama,
Mississippi, and Louisiana are experiencing tremendous loss of life and
devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Current data indicates that people with
disabilities are now most at risk in this situationand will need recovery
assistance for months or years. A disproportionate number of the Hurricane
survivors are people with disabilities whose needs for basic necessities are
compounded by chronic health conditions and functional impairments.
In Biloxi, Mississippi, a city of about 50,000 people, 26 percent of residents
are people with disabilities. This means that there are 10,700 people with
disabilities 5 years of age and older who live in Biloxi.
In Mobile, Alabama, a city of 198,915 people, 24 percent of the residents are
people with disabilities. This means that there are 43,000 people with
disabilities 5 years of age and older who live in Mobile.
In New Orleans, a city of about 484,000 people, 23.2 percent of residents
are people with disabilities. This means that there are 102,122 people
with disabilities 5 years of age and older who live in New Orleans.
Who are the 102,122 people with disabilities who live in New Orleans?
About 10 percent (or 12,000) of them are people ages 5 to 20 years old;
61 percent (or 63,000) of them are aged 21 to 64 years old; and 29
percent (or 27,000) of the people are 65 years of age and older.
The 102,122 people with disabilities living in New Orleans include people
who are blind, people who are deaf, people who use wheelchairs, canes,
walkers, crutches, people with service animals, and people with mental
health needs. At least half of the people with disabilities in New
Orleans who are of working age are not employed. Many of the people rely
on a variety of government programs such as Supplemental Security Income
and Medicaid to help them meet their daily service and support needs.
The total destruction of the physical environment and
infrastructure and communications systems in the Gulf Coastal areas
affected by Hurricane Katrina has life-threatening implications for all
citizens with disabilities, and those without disabilities. The
implications for these people include:
7 for people with physical disabilities and who are over 65 years
of age, being unable to leave their homes, group homes, nursing homes,
hospitals without significant assistance;
7 for all people with disabilities, being prevented from using any
type of accessible public transportation which in all likelihood do not
7 for people who are blind, being unable to even get around in
their own flooded neighborhoods because they can no longer navigate the
7 for all people with disabilities driven by floods from
institutions or group homes or nursing homes, needing to be housed in
less than satisfactory conditions with considerably less than the
necessary range of services and supports they need for an indeterminate
amount of time;
7 for people with disabilities who have service animals, are
unable to rely on those animals outside of the house or group home
because these animals cannot navigate safely in the flooded streets;
7 for people who are deaf, being challenged to access emergency
information through television, radio, TTY, etc. because public
communications systems are somewhat compromised;
7 for all people with disabilities, being unable to secure
life-saving food and water because many of them are trapped within the
confines of inadequate supplied shelters, stadiums, etc.; and
7 people may have lost or become separated from the drugs they
rely on daily for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments.
Pharmacies in the affected areas may have insufficient stocks of vital
drugs like insulin for diabetics, creating a need to organize efforts to
import and distribute essential medicines in the area. In addition, many
pharmacies have been raided by looters.
Where to go for help?
People with disabilities affected by Hurricane Katrina should
contact their local emergency response officials by using the 9-1-1
system. This system will handle voice and TTY callers.
Louisiana government officials advise that in addition to the existing
special needs shelters that have opened in Alexandria and Monroe,
shelters have been opened in two other communities in Louisiana. These
shelters are staffed by the Department of Health and Hospitals and
Department of Social Services. While these shelters are open it is
strongly encouraged that citizens first try to evacuate to the north with
their families and get out of harms way. These are shelters of last
resort and are not for the general public.
At 10:00 am this morning, an additional shelter was opened in Lafayette.
At this time, special needs shelters have been opened in Alexandria,
Monroe, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge. Due to the uncertainty of the damage
that Baton Rouge and Lafayette will sustain from the storm, DHH officials
stress that it is very important to move to a shelter further north in
Alexandria or Monroe if at all possible.
Special Needs Shelters are designed for individuals who are homebound,
chronically ill or who have disabilities and are in need of medical or
nursing care, and have no other place to receive care.
Those seeking shelter will be screened by nurses to determine the level
of care needed. Only people who meet admission criteria can be sheltered.
If their condition is too critical, they will be referred to a hospital
for sheltering, or admission. If their condition is not severe enough for
Special Needs Sheltering, they will be referred to a general shelter.
Special triage telephone lines are being established in each region to
accept the calls of citizens seeking special needs sheltering. Citizens
with special needs seeking shelter must call telephone number in their
area BEFORE attempting to access a shelter. These numbers are listed below.
Baton Rouge: 800-349-1372
Lake Charles: 866-280-2711
Special Needs Shelters are not designed for the general public or for
nursing home patients. Nursing homes in Louisiana are required to have
emergency evacuation plans in place that ensure the health and safety of
their residents. In most instances, these plans allow for homes in
affected areas to transport their patients to nursing homes in areas safe
from the storm.
Health officials note that if individuals have health problems that
require medical expertise and must evacuate, it is best for them to go
with family members or caretakers north and west to areas that are out of
harms way. These will provide medical support services only. Because of
limited staffing, those going to a Special Needs Shelter must have a
caretaker to assist with ongoing support and they should bring all
necessary supplies including sheets, blankets and pillows.
Community And Residential Services Association (CARSA), a trade
organization for providers of services with developmental disabilities,
in cooperation with the ARC of Louisiana, the Developmental Disabilities
Council and The Advocacy Center, is available to assist families who may
have relatives who were evacuated from community homes and other service
programs in the Greater New Orleans area.
Families seeking information may call the following numbers for
The ARC of Louisiana 1-866-966-6261
Developmental Disabilities Council 1-800-450-8108
The Advocacy Center (Baton Rouge) 1-800-711-1696
The Advocacy Center (Lafayette) 1-800-822-0210
How can we help?
(This note was distributed by an Independent Living Center)
Dear IL Colleague,
As you may know, the Centers for Independent Living in Biloxi,
Mississippi and New Orleans have been gravely affected by the hurricane.
In fact the Biloxi, MS center was totally destroyed. Many of you are
asking how you can help. Here is what we have learned from colleagues in
Sending money is the first priority. Sending supplies to those centers is
helpful too but NOT RIGHT NOW, because they can't get through the water.
Here are the suggested options for right now:
1) Send a check or credit card payment to the Red Cross and designate it
for Hurricane Relief, or designate it for people with disabilities in the
Biloxi/Hattiesburg or New Orleans areas.
2) If you want to send money for the CILs that are dealing with this
disaster directly, here are your options:
For the Biloxi Center, mail the check (payable to LIFE of Central MS and
designated for the Biloxi Center) to:
LIFE of Central Mississippi
754 North President Street, Suite 1
Jackson, MS 39202
For the centers in Louisiana (make checks payable to Resources for
Independent Living - this is a branch of the N.O. center - and designate
for the New Orleans center)and mail to:
Resources for IL
11931 Industriplex Blvd. Suite 200
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
We have also learned from Mack Marsh of the Shreveport Center that
centers in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles are assisting
evacuees. Mack says they would also appreciate supplies if there is any
way to get those supplies to the centers. His list includes: manual
wheelchairs, hospital beds, adult diapers, bed pads, catheters and other
supplies. The address for the Baton Rouge center is shown above,
addresses for the Shreveport and Lake Charles centers follow.
Southwest LA Independence Center, Inc.
1202 Kirkman, Suite C
Lake Charles, LA 70601
New Horizons, Inc.
9300 Mansfield Road, Suite 204
Shreveport, LA 71118
Coordinated Federal-State-Local response
A coordinated Federal Disability Recovery Plan for Hurricane Katrina
should be immediately developed and implemented. The decisions the
Federal Government makes, the priority it accords to civil rights, and
the methods it adopts to ensure uniformity in the ways agencies handle
their disability-related responsibilities are likely to be established in
the early days of this emergency situation and be difficult to change if
not set on the right course at the outset. This response must include
people with disabilities.
An urgent priority is to provide funds and secure resources that
specifically meet the critical needs of Katrina survivors with
disabilities, help to rebuild the organizations that serve them, identify
accessible temporary and permanent housing and address the specific
requests being made by leaders in the devastated areas and those in the
areas that people with disabilities are being evacuated to. At the
minimum, this response should include:
Accessible Disaster Facilities and Services. Communications technology is
vital for people with disabilities during this disaster to help assess
damage, collect information, and deploy supplies. Access to appropriate
facilities -- housing, beds, toilets, and other necessities -- must be
monitored and made available to individuals with disabilities before,
during, and after a disaster. This access also must be ensured for those
who incur a disability as a result of a disaster.
Accessible Communications and Assistance. As communications technology
and policy become more integral to disaster relief and mitigation,
providing accessibility to the technology for people with disabilities
will be life-saving. For example, people with hearing impairments require
interpreters, TTY communications, and signaling devices. People with
cognitive impairments, such as those with developmental disabilities,
Alzheimer's disease, or brain injury, will likely require assistance to
cope with hurricane-ravaged surroundings and to minimize confusion
Accessible and Reliable Rescue Communications. Accessible and reliable
communications technology is critical to ensuring fast, effective, and
competent field treatment of people with disabilities. Communications
technologies can assist field personnel in rescue coordination and
tracking and can be combined with databases that house information on
optimal treatment for particular disabilities or that track the
allocation of post-disaster resources.
# # #
Note: The National Council on Disability is an independent federal agency
making recommendations to the President and Congress to enhance the
quality of life for Americans with disabilities and their families.
Mark S. Quigley
Director of Communications
National Council on Disability
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20004