Titles II & III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require state and local governments, business and non-profit organizations to communicate effectively with people who have disabilities or access and functional needs (AFN). The goal is to ensure that communication is equally effective for everyone.
During a disaster, communication becomes especially critical. As such, information delivered at press conferences by public officials and broadcasted on television during a disaster needs to be effective, understood, consumable, and actionable by the whole community.
The Cal OES Office of Access and Functional Needs coordinates with Federal, State and Local partners to ensure communication needs are identified and addressed during disasters. This means ensuring that communities understand how to utilize the following communication resources:
Early Warning Notification Systems must be accessible and capable of reaching the diverse population of people with disabilities. Review the Emergency Alert System (EAS) with broadcasters in your jurisdiction to ensure accessibility for people who are deaf/hard of hearing, deaf-blind, blind/low vision or who have cognitive disabilities for all emergency messages. In determining the type of systems to obtain and policies to adopt, consider the following:
Promoting individual registration of wireless devices & TTYs helps ensure individuals can receive emergency alerts. Today’s expanding technologies give people many communication method options. Reverse 911 calls may miss many deaf and hard of hearing people. While this works with TTYs, Reverse 911 cannot reach Video Phone numbers even through Video Relay Service and does not provide a text or email version.
People who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and individuals with speech disabilities are rapidly migrating from traditional land line phones to more advanced telecommunications mobile methods. Have MOUs with wireless providers and have wireless devices and chargers at shelters, LACs and DRCs. Remind the suppliers to ensure equipment is accessible to wheelchair users, TTY users, and people who use various wireless devices.
Deaf and hard of hearing people can sign up to at www.EmergencyEmail.org to have notifications sent to their email or wireless device. Organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing may have suggestions where deaf individuals can register to receive emergency notifications.
The FCC introduced Personalized Alerting Network in May 2011. Mobile providers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have collaborated with FCC to initiate service prior to April 2012 deadline. (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-05-09-emergency-alerts_n.htm)
The FCC website has a list of carriers. The customer should ask their mobile provider if their phone has the capability to receive the alerts. If not, a software upgrade may be available. https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/wireless-emergency-alerts
The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) was designated by the Office of the Governor to serve as the lead state agency in California's efforts to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in state government. The Disability Access Services (DAS) was established in 1992 to promote disability rights in state government and DOR partnerships in the community.
DAS serves as a resource that provides public information, consultation, training and technical assistance to state and local government, consumers, employers and businesses to help prevent accessibility issues.
DAS also provides physical and communication accessibility expertise for employers, businesses, architects, design professionals, and building officials.
DAS guides public organizations on their responsibilities and the requirements of accessibility for persons with disabilities. However, DAS is not involved in the enforcement of these laws.
DAS provides the following services at little to no cost for state and local government and DOR affiliated partners.
There is a significant amount of new technology being demonstrated and utilized, but it may not always provide effective communication to people with sensory disabilities. Therefore, the burden remains on first responders, volunteers and disability and older adults service systems to communicate with individuals during evacuations. Consider the following regarding methods of communication:
The following should be clearly addressed:
Information delivered at press conferences by public officials during a disaster is critical. Specific steps in planning press conferences need to occur to ensure accessible and effective communication.
The Cal OES Office of Access and Functional Needs, in conjunction with the California Specialized Training Institute, conducts an annual Disaster Response Interpreter Training. This full-day course is intended for professional sign language interpreters who may be called upon to provide interpreting services during/after a disaster. All participants must be fluent in ASL. The training emphasizes basic knowledge of emergency response and recovery activities, and provides practice opportunities for interpreting at press conferences and shelters, including media and press protocols, shelter operations and recovery services, and readiness procedures. Participants undergo a Department of Justice Live Scan and receive a disaster service worker badge upon completion. Some participants may even receive continuing education units.
The information conveyed in a press release to people with disabilities is very important. In developing the message consider the following: