The ADA: Physical and Program Access _review

Seven community members wearing face masks are seated around a table in a small meeting style room.
It may not seem like it, but the people in this room are socially distanced. An American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter is in the room to sign for anyone who needs it.
Rachel, a white woman in her 40s, wears a facemask and glucose monitor on her upper arm

Rachel: We’ve had a request to review potential emergency policies, Terrye. If they are in keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we’ll add them to our local plan. If they are not in keeping with the ADA, they will be kept out of the plan.

On an early visit, we talked about a photo of a Disasterville County emergency shelter. Remember that it looked kind of crowded and seemed like it would be noisy? Remind yourself by looking at the photo below. Then read the modifications list.

An aerial image of a crowded emergency shelter with many people, beds, and supplies
Emergency Shelter during Ice Storm 
Used with permission, L. Jackson, MA Medical Reserve Corps Region 4 A

Which modifications do you think would be reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Rachel, a white woman in her 40s, wears a facemask and glucose monitor on her upper arm

Rachel: Providing extra storage, wayfinding help, and access to a kitchen would be reasonable modifications under the ADA. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, these program access modifications should be provided in an emergency shelter.

Most of these things might seem easy to provide, right? But what about personal care assistance? That seems pricey, doesn’t it? It’s still a reasonable modification, though. Another reason to plan ahead.

Local governments and emergency shelter operators may not require someone to bring their own direct support professional in order to receive shelter services. But local plans could call for publicizing that direct support professionals are welcome in the local emergency shelter.

In engaging with local planners, it’s important to emphasize not just the law, not just that something is the right thing to do, but that there are practical benefits too. For example, publicizing that direct support professionals are welcome might cut down on the number of people who arrive at an emergency shelter without a direct support professional. Fewer people who need direct support help might mean lower costs and less work for shelter staff.

PJ, in their 30s, wears a facemask and glasses

PJ: Take a look at some more policies, Terrye. Below is an emergency transportation policy.

Evacuation Transport Policy

Disasterville County has limited evacuation transportation and has an obligation to protect residents’ safety. Therefore, the County will not evacuate residents together with their mobility equipment (such as wheelchairs) because this kind of equipment takes valuable space in evacuation vehicles which could otherwise be occupied by people.

This policy is:

Here’s another policy:

Disaster Shelter Admission

Any person with a diagnosed mental illness other than depression or anxiety who arrives at a Disasterville emergency shelter will be transferred to a medical facility in order to protect the safety and security of the shelter’s general population.

This policy is:

EM, a white bald man in his 50s wears a facemask

EM: As we get ready to give COVID-19 vaccines, we have to think about Emergency Dispensing Sites (EDS) where many people will go to receive the vaccine. Check out this potential policy.

COVID-19 Emergency Dispensing Site (EDS) Policy

Each year, Disasterville County will assess the physical accessibility of all potential Emergency Dispensing Sites (EDS). All EDS are to be made physically accessible to people with disabilities, unless there are undue financial or administrative burdens, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, at least one emergency dispensing site in this county shall be physically accessible.

This policy is:

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