Access & Functional Needs

Access & Functional Needs

About Us 

No two disasters are ever the same; yet, virtually all incidents disproportionately affect individuals with access and functional needs (AFN) (i.e. people with disabilities, older adults, children, limited English proficiency, and transportation disadvantaged). Understanding this harsh reality, in 2008 California established the Office of Access and Functional Needs (OAFN) within the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The purpose of OAFN is to identify the needs of individuals with disabilities and others with access or functional needs before, during, and after disasters and to integrate them into the State's emergency management systems.

OAFN utilizes a whole community approach by offering training and guidance to emergency managers and planners, disability advocates and other service providers responsible for planning for, responding to and helping communities recover from disasters. In short, OAFN plans for the realities of disasters by integrating access and functional needs into everything Cal OES does including partnership development, outreach, training, guidance and providing technical assistance.

Luis “Vance” Taylor is the Chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs.


Office of Access and Functional Needs Program Highlights

OAFN Program Highlights and Ongoing Efforts

Disaster Response
OAFN has responded to every major incident to support local efforts and assist as needed:
Worked with the American Red Cross and local jurisdictions to ensure shelters are accessible;
Assisted in securing accessible showers, porta-potties and hand washing stations for use at shelters;
Helped utilize American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters at town halls, press events, and Recovery Centers; and
Collaborated with local agencies to provide accessible transportation to shelters and Local Assistance Centers.

Training: G197 Integrating Access and Functional Needs into Emergency Planning Training Course
The G197 training course brings together local emergency managers, members of the disability community, and AFN-related stakeholders to discuss integration of emergency management plans.

Integrated Curriculum Development Project
OAFN, in conjunction with CSTI, is currently developing, along with our whole community partners, three AFN-specific online courses. Each course will provide information, guidance, and best practices for integrating access and functional needs within the following components of an emergency operation plan: (Communication, Transportation, and Sheltering).

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Position Credentialing Program
This statewide program promotes an enhanced level of readiness and response for day-to-day emergencies and catastrophic disasters by ensuring qualified and competent staffing for EOCs. All Type III credentialed emergency managers (the entry-level) now need to take and pass an access and functional needs (AFN)-specific training course.

After creating the first-of-its-kind interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) web map to serve as the definitive, comprehensive, statewide resource for AFN-related assets/resources, OAFN (in partnership with the Cal OES GIS Division) created version 2.0, which empowers emergency management jurisdictions to improve their whole community planning efforts in advance of emergencies.

Active Shooter Awareness Guidance
OAFN led the effort to update California’s Active Shooter Awareness Guidance to include AFN considerations through collaborative efforts with law enforcement, the California Specialized Training Institute, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, independent living centers, emergency managers and other disability stakeholders.

Disaster Response Interpreter (DRI)
OAFN’s Disaster Response Interpreter (DRI) program certifies ASL interpreters to provide services at shelters, town halls, press conferences and community events during emergencies and to standardize the practice of having on-screen interpreting at all statewide press forums.

A full list of the Office of Access and Functional Needs' program highlights.

​Understanding Access and Functional Needs

Access and functional needs (AFN) refers to individuals who are or have:

  • Physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities
  • Chronic conditions or injuries
  • Limited English proficiency
  • Older adults
  • Children
  • Low income, homeless and/or transportation disadvantaged (i.e., dependent on public transit)
  • Pregnant women

***Detailed guidance on integrating AFN can be found in the AFN library

Cal OES Integrates Access and Functional Needs Within Updated Active Shooter Awareness Guidance

Following the active shooter attack on December 2, 2015 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, initial reports indicated it was an assault on the disabled. Though we later learned this was not the case; the thought of an attack on individuals with disabilities raised serious concerns over the current lack of guidance regarding the access and functional needs (AFN) considerations associated with an active shooter attack.

To address this issue, Cal OES brought together a work group consisting of representatives from law enforcement, the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, emergency managers, the California Specialized
Train­ing Institute and other disability stakeholders to update its Active Shooter Awareness Guidance.

We are proud to inform you that the revised guidance, which now integrates access and functional needs considerations, has been completed and is now publicly available! We encourage you to read and share it with your stakeholders.

Click here to download the updated Active Shooter Awareness Guidance.

​The Cal OES Access and Functional Needs Web Map

To empower emergency managers to identify the Access and Functional Needs (AFN)-related assets and resources needed to support the health and independence of survivors with disabilities or AFN, the Office of Access and Functional Needs (OAFN) partnered with the agency's GIS Division to create the California AFN Web Map – the first-ever searchable, comprehensive, statewide resource for locating AFN-related assets and resources in California.

Using data from the U.S. Census, the web map contains the following information for every county in the State of California:

  • Disability. Total number of individuals in each county with a disability (listed into four categories: Hearing difficulty; vision difficulty; cognitive difficulty; and ambulatory difficulty).
  • Culture. The ethnicity and primary language(s) spoken at home within each county.
  • Age. The age (across the life spectrum) of individuals in every county.

The web map outlines where each of the following resources are located:

  • American Sign Language Interpreting Services. Organizations providing interpretation services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • CERT Programs. Local programs that educate individuals about disaster preparedness and train them in basic disaster response skills.
  • Language Translation Services. Organizations providing written text or interpretation services in a language other than English.
  • Regional Centers. Non-profit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Accessible Hygiene Resources. Showers, toileting, and hand washing stations that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
  • Accessible Transportation. Organizations providing public transportation services to seniors and individuals with disabilities that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
  • Assistive Technology. Organizations providing devices, equipment or technology systems and services for individuals with disabilities.
  • Independent Living Centers. Community-based, non-profit organizations designed and operated by individuals with disabilities.

Using the web map, emergency managers can develop a better understanding of the AFN-specific assets and resources they should plan for during disasters. As such, they can leverage the web map to locate specific assets and resources often before they're needed. This fundamentally changes the way emergency managers respond to disasters.

To submit data regarding additional resources, use the links to download and email us at

Instructions to Submit Data for AFN Web Map.pdf

AFN Webmap Data Template.xltx

To use this tool, visit the AFN Web Map page.

​Disasters Planning Priorities

Lessons documented from years of assisting individuals with access and functional needs (AFN) in disasters show three areas repeatedly identified as needing improvement:

Communications: Information delivered at press conferences by public officials and broadcasted on television during a disaster is critical. This information needs to be effective, understood, consumable, and actionable by the whole community (i.e. sign language interpreters for Deaf/Hard of Hearing, translation for those with limited English, and alternative formats for Blind/Low Vision). For detailed guidance on improving disaster-related communications, visit the Communications section of the AFN Library.

Transportation: When local evacuations become necessary, considerations for the whole community include accessible transportation options, medical needs, and keeping individuals connected with their families, personal care providers, essential equipment & technologies, and service animals. For detailed guidance on planning for evacuations and transportation, visit the Evacuation/Transportation section of the AFN Library.

Sheltering: Shelters can be stressful environments and accelerate the impacts of disasters when they are not planned for the whole community. General population shelters need to be in physically accessible locations and equipped with resources to meet the needs of individuals with access and functional needs, so they remain with their support systems and communities. For detailed guidance on sheltering, visit the Sheltering section of the AFN Library.

​Access and Functional Needs (AFN) Document Library

Due to the overwhelming inquiries from across the state (and the nation) from community leaders, state agencies, advocacy organizations, emergency managers and others asking for AFN-related planning resources, we have developed a central repository/clearinghouse of planning resources.

The AFN Library includes:

  • Best practices
  • Guidance documents
  • After action reports
  • Videos, and more

Whether you’re looking for information on effective communication, sheltering or integration; you can find it in the AFN Library. If you would like to contribute information resources for inclusion to the library, please contact us at

​Access and Functional Needs Frequently Asked Questions



How can I make sure my organization is ready for individuals with Access and Functional Needs?How can I make sure my organization is ready for individuals with Access and Functional Needs?<p>​Cal OES has created the Access and Functional Needs Planning Toolkit, which can be viewed <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
What is Access and Functional Needs?What is Access and Functional Needs?<p>Access and functional needs (AFN) refers to individuals who are/have:<br>•Physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities<br>•Chronic conditions or injuries<br>•Limited English proficiency<br>•Older adults<br>•Children<br>•Low income, homeless and/or transportation disadvantaged (i.e., dependent on public transit)<br>•in late stages of pregnancy</p>
Why is Access and Functional Needs important to emergency managers?Why is Access and Functional Needs important to emergency managers?<p>It is vital that emergency managers understand that individuals with access and functional needs are disproportionately impacted by disasters and that historically, the whole community has not been included in the emergency management process.</p><p><br>To ensure the most successful outcomes before, during, and after disasters, Emergency Managers must use thoughtful and deliberate approaches to integrate the needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults, and all people with an access or functional needs. </p>


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