Persons with Disabilities

Approximately 54 million Americans have some degree of difficulty or inability to communicate and receive information through speech, hearing, and vision. During emergencies it is crucial that persons with disabilities have access to communications services.

For additional information including telecommunications relay service (TRS), access to telecommunications equipment and services by persons with disabilities, access to emergency information, and closed captioning, see

Resources for First Responders and PSAPs:

  • Hampton Roads Special Needs

    This website may help those who have special medical needs plan for emergencies. The website also houses the voluntary Medical Needs Registry for residents in the Hampton Roads area. The website and registry were developed by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission's Regional Emergency Management Technical Advisory Committee.
    Hampton Roads Special Needs
  • Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC): Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities, Information for Emergency Managers, Responders, Service & Care Providers

    The FCC participates in the ICC Emergency Preparedness and Persons with Disabilities, an initiative to help ensure that the federal government appropriately supports and coordinates public safety for persons with disabilities. The ICC works with persons with disabilities, federal, state and local governments, and communications services providers to promote new policies, initiatives, and programs that enhance access to the most current and efficient modes of communications.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guide for Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities

    The U.S. Department of Justice offers local government officials tips on making their emergency preparedness and response programs accessible to persons with disabilities, as required by the ADA of 1990.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Accommodating Individuals With Disabilities In The Provision Of Disaster Mass Care, Housing, And Human Services

    FEMA's reference guide outlines existing legal requirements and standards relating to access for persons with disabilities. This guide is the first in a series of disability-related guidelines FEMA will produce for disaster preparedness, response planners and service providers.
    FEMA Guide
    Emegency Medical Services -
  • National Organization on Disability (NOD), Emergency Preparedness Initiative: Guide for Emergency Planners, Managers & Responders

    NOD's Emergency Preparedness Guide highlights key disability concerns for officials and experts responsible for emergency planning in their communities. This guide is also designed to help emergency managers and first responders make the best use of resources to include all citizens in emergency preparedness plans.
    NOD EPI Guide
  • Interactive Map: Local Disability & Emergency Preparedness Resources

    US MapThe NOD has created an interactive map which provides an accessible, interactive directory of federal, regional, state, and local disability-related emergency management resources. The map contains information on regional branches of FEMA and ADA & IT Technical Assistance Centers, Governors' websites and state disability resource agencies, a directory of independent living councils by state, Citizen Corps and American Red Cross Chapters, as well as links to State and local Emergency Management Agencies. Click on the map or the link below to be directed to NOD's website for more information.
    NOD Interactive Map
  • Department of Transportation (DOT): Emergency Preparedness Guidelines for Safety Personnel

    This fact sheet highlights the roles and responsibilities of first responders in assisting persons with disabilities during an emergency.
    Fact Sheet
  • U.S. Fire Administration: Orientation Manual for First Responders on the Evacuation of People with Disabilities (FA-235)

    This guide provides practical information on both rescue techniques and preparedness information for first responders who encounter persons with visible and non-visible disabilities.
    Orientation Manual
  • Disabled People and Disaster Planning (DP2): Communications After a Disaster

    DP2 is a non-profit group of disabled and non-disabled Los Angeles County residents studying the effect of earthquake disasters on the local disabled population. Although this information originally addresses earthquakes, it also applies to other types of disaster preparedness, including: preparation, emergency shelter accessibility, training rescue workers and law enforcement to assist persons with disabilities, evacuating wheelchair users, and accessible post-disaster communications and services.
    Orientation Manual

Additional Reference Materials:

  • Commercial Mobile Alert System

    In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules establishing the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) whereby commercial mobile service (CMS) providers may choose to transmit emergency alerts to their subscribers. Under the Commission's rules, CMS providers that choose to transmit alerts over the CMAS must include an audio attention signal and vibration cadence in their handsets in order to let subscribers with disabilities know when they have received such alerts.
    For more information, click here.
  • Federal Communications Commission Disability Rights Office (DRO)

    The FCC's DRO provides information on FCC rulings to make telecommunications service accessible for persons with disabilities.
  • City of Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Handbook for Persons with Disabilities

    This 33-page guide prepared by the Los Angeles Department on Disability provides guidance for persons with disabilities for a variety of emergency situations. It also includes information about the care and protection of service animals. The publication includes sample forms to document emergency contacts and important medical information to communicate to others.
    Emergency Preparedness Handbook
  • City of Chicago Fire Department

    The Chicago Fire Department has a paper registration form for persons with disabilities. A completed registration form is mailed to CFD headquarters, where it is loaded into a PSAP database. If a 9-1-1 call is placed from the registered disabled person's home, first responders are notified that an inhabitant has a disability.
    Chicago Fire Department Fire Safety Booklet (PDF)
  • provides quick and easy access to comprehensive information about disability programs, services, laws and benefits.
    Federal Disability Info Home Page
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Hurricane Public Announcements and Podcasts in Accessible Formats

    CDC Hurricane PSAs and Podcasts provide timely and accessible messages about protection from hurricanes.
    Hurricane page
  • Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN): Emergency Responder Video

    The CEPIN project aims to broaden the scope of awareness and preparedness between first responders and deaf and hard-of-hearing persons prior to the occurrence of natural and man-made disasters. This video informs first responders on the most appropriate methods of communicating with deaf or hard-of-hearing persons during an emergency.
    CEPIN Emergency Responder Video

    Information and services for individuals, families, and businesses needing disaster recovery assistance.
    Disaster Help Home Page
  • National Weather Service: Special-Needs NOAA Weather radio

    The special-needs NOAA Weather Radio was designed to adapt to the needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The Weather Radio can warn such persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information.
    NOAA Weather Radio Information for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons
  • Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO): Recommendations for the Care of Mentally or Physically Challenged Persons, and the Elderly in Emergencies

    PAHO offers these guidelines to first responders and community leaders for anticipating the needs of persons with disabilities in a disaster.
    PAHO Recommendations
  • National Organization on Disability (NOD), Emergency Preparedness Initiative: Prepare Yourself - Disaster Readiness Tips for People with Disabilities

    This pamphlet contains resources on disaster preparation and readiness tips specific to different types of disabilities.
    NOD Menu of Pamphlets
  • NOD Releases Findings of its Special Needs Rapid Assessment Teams for Hurricane Katrina

    The National Organization on Disability released the findings of its Special Needs for Katrina Evacuees (SNAKE) Project in 2005. SNAKE teams were deployed throughout the Gulf region to perform rapid assessments of the special needs and living conditions of Katrina survivors with disabilities.
    SNAKE Report
  • Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response Hearing

    Caring for Special Needs during Disasters: What’s being done for Vulnerable Populations?

Emergency Assistance

Richard Lee
phone: 202-418-1104
mobile: 202-417-6559

Eric Panketh
phone: 202-418-7371

Technical Advice

Dr. William Lane
phone: 202-418-0676
mobile: 202-355-2420

Jeffery Goldthorp
phone: 202-418-1096
mobile: 202-253-1595


Genaro Fullano
phone: 202-418-0492