FEMA Provides Accessible Technologies for Hurricane Sandy Survivors

January 2013

On December 16, 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced efforts to better serve Hurricane Sandy survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or blind by providing the New York disaster recovery centers with a number of technologies to help people with disabilities better access information.

"We've been engaging the real experts, people who use these tools on a regular basis, as our planning partners," Marcie Roth, Director of FEMA's Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.

Jamie Prioli, Assistive Technology Specialist and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at the Institute on Disabilities was one of those "real experts." Jamie says that she was asked to offer direction on precisely what technologies were needed to provide equal access to all individuals seeking assistance from FEMA. "For example," Jamie says, "if someone who has lost his hearing aid in a flood, he will need assistance in communication with the FEMA representative to ensure that he will receive the right services."

Some of the assistive technology tools being used are enhanced listening devices, iPad 3s with real-time-video remote sign language interpreting apps, and captioned phones to get accessible disaster recovery information.

"We are so far ahead of where we were, even a year ago, but that doesn't mean that we're there yet," Roth says. "We're in a position where we're using for the first time some of the most advanced technology in one of the worst disasters. This is a great teachable moment, but we have to make sure no one falls through the cracks in this learning curve."

Complete story about the initiative on the FEMA website

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University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service