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The ADA and Emergency Shelters: Access for All in Emergencies and Disasters

Authors: Department of Justice


This webpage provides an explanation of the steps that providers of emergency shelters need to follow in order to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and be accessible to people with disabilities. This information is important because shelters are managed by many different types of entities, including government, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross, and churches. It is excerpted ffrom the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments, Click on the "web Links"tab above to go to the web page now. It provides clear explanations of eight areas of concern in evaluating the accessibility of shelters, then provides examples and practical ideas for action for each. These eight areas are:

Advance Planning- This summarizes the purpose of the entire document, when shelter operators begin to consider the needs of people with disabilities just before or at the time of an emergency it is too late.

Accessibility- Emergency managers and shelter operators need to ensure that sheltering programs are accessible to people with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.

Eligibility Criteria – In some parts of the country there are two types of shelters: 1) “mass shelters” for use by the general public and 2) those designated for individuals with disabilities/special needs and their families. This document clarifies that all shelters need to be prepared to welcome and support people with special access and care needs.

Reasonable Modifications- Shelter operators need to build flexibility into rules and policies in anticipation of unusual circumstances (e.g., allowing service animals into “no pet” areas, allowing access to food between meals for people with diabetes).

Effective Communication- (e.g., Provide written materials in alternative formats, visual cues to supplement auditory announcements or alarms for people who are deaf/hard of hearing).

Shelter Environment- (e.g., Keep traffic lanes open, design and provide assistance with wayfinding, provide quiet, low stress areas).

Supplies- (e.g., Consider how people will obtain necessary medications and equipment, and provide safe and appropriate storages.)
Transitions Back to the Community- With an eye to providing people with disabilities a reasonable amount of time and assistance to locate appropriate housing.

Contact Info:
Organization:U.S. Department of Justice
Address:Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20530
Phone:ADA Information Line ;800-514-0301 (voice) 800-514-0383 (TTY)
Fax:(202) 307-1198

Web Links

Click here to go the webpage now

Download an additional accessibility checklist prepared by the DOJ for emergency shelters

See other ADA publications available from the US Department of Justice

This information was found at www.qualitymall.org