If you need to evacuate, there are some extra tools that can help drivers with disabilities stay safe behind the wheel.
- Siren alert device: Compatible with both your home and vehicle, a siren alert is an easy way to call for help in an emergency, especially for those drivers with hearing loss.
- Driving glasses: Driving requires you to see in detail, something that isn’t easy for everyone. A pair of glasses can ensure clear vision and also serve as an anti-reflective tool when driving at night.
- Assist bars or straps: A sturdy assist bar or strap can help you pull yourself in and out of the vehicle.
- Swivel cushion: A swivel cushion can help you move from a wheelchair to the driver’s seat with far less trouble by turning with you to ensure easier movement.
- Turny or valet seat: A turny, or valet seat, is another way to transfer from a wheelchair to your car by using a seat that exits the vehicle and lowers itself down to the appropriate height of your wheelchair.
- Car ramps: A car ramp allows you to simply wheel your chair into the vehicle without any need to leave your wheelchair at all.
- Reclining seats: Reclining seats ensure comfort and make it easier for you to move in and out of the car.
- Hands-free navigation: Eliminate one worry by utilizing hands-free navigation that can keep you on track with minimal disruption.
- Lane-keeping assist: Lane-keeping assist is a newer technology that will sound an alert if you stray from your lane.
- Pedestrian detection: Pedestrians can dart into traffic without warning, but pedestrian detection can slow or stop your vehicle immediately in response.
- Forward collision warning: If a car suddenly stops or cuts in front of you, a forward collision warning helps prevent a collision by hitting the brakes.
As important as it is to secure yourself outside of the home, you also must secure yourself within your house, and these tips can help.
- Register for emergency assistance: The federal Disaster Assistance program can help you find an emergency management agency in your state, as well as medical and other disaster relief in your area.
- Have a plan: Work with the other members of your household to create a plan of action if there is an emergency. Your plan should include everything from evacuation routes and local shelters to communication and preparation for your pets and service animals.
- Know your support network: Identify what resources are available to help in a crisis, and connect with neighbors, caregivers and out-of-town family members to collaborate on emergency preparedness and evacuation.
- Have seats in the showers: A seat in the shower can help prevent slips and falls, especially if you are in a hurry. Invest in a mobile version that can be taken with you if you need to leave home.
- Grab bars and safety rails: Like a shower seat, grab bars and safety railings can help provide stability and balance when moving around the house.
- Wider hallways: Investing in wider hallways can simplify and improve mobility by providing room for wheelchairs and making it easier to move with bags and belongings.
- Pillow and bed alarms: These special alarms are designed to wake even the deepest sleeper with optional sound, vibrating and shaking effects.
- Light alarms: These alarms can also ensure that you wake by using bright lights to signal that it is time to wake up.
- Alexa and Google Home: These smart home systems use technology to simplify your life, doing everything from turning off the lights to locking doors with just the touch of a button.
- Set appliance reminders: Many appliances have easy reminders that you can set and use to turn your appliances on and off even if you are away from home.
- Reduce the risk of falls: Keeping your home tidy and free of clutter can help reduce the risk of trips and falls.
*These tips are courtesy of BankRate Insurance, we do not endorse this company*
Build a Kit
In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should have items to meet your individual needs in various emergencies. Consider the items you use on a daily basis and which ones you may need to add to your kit.
Tips for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- A weather radio (with text display and a flashing alert)
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- Pen and paper (in case you have to communicate with someone who does not know sign language)
Tips for People Who are Blind or Have Low Vision
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies and where you bought them on a portable flash drive or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
- Keep communication devices for your particular needs, such as a Braille or deaf-blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
Tips for People with Speech Disability
- If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if it is lost or destroyed. Keep model information and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.).
- Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases and/or pictogram.
Tips for People with a Mobility Disability
- If you use a power wheelchair have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup if possible. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- Show others how to operate your wheelchair.
- Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you can’t purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations or local charitable groups can help you buy one. Keep extra batteries on a trickle charger at all times.
- Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if wheelchair or scooter is not puncture proof.
- Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker if you use one.
- Keep a portable air pump for wheelchair tires.
- If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance and you must evacuate, have an extra cushion to take with you.
Tips for Individuals with Sensory Disabilities (including autism spectrum disorder)
For people with sensory disabilities, this may include:
- Handheld electronic devices (loaded with movies and games)
- Spare chargers
- Sheets and twine or a small pop up tent (to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide instant privacy)
- Headphones (to decrease auditory distractions)
- Comfort snacks
- At least a week-long supply of prescription medicines
- A list of all medications, dosage and any allergies
- Extra eyeglasses
- Extra hearing aid batteries
- Extra wheelchair batteries (or a manual wheelchair if possible)
- A list of the style and serial number of medical devices (include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed)
- Copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards
- Contact information for doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt
- Pet food, extra water, collar with ID tag, medical records and other supplies for your service animal
prepare now: complete a personal assesment
Think about the following questions and share your answers with your network. These answers should describe both your current capabilities and the assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster. Base your plan on your lowest anticipated level of functioning.
- Personal Care: Do you regularly need assistance with personal care, such as bathing and grooming? Do you use adaptive equipment to help you get dressed?
- Water Service: What will you do if water service is cut off for several days or if you are unable to heat water?
- Personal Care Equipment: Do you use a shower chair, tub-transfer bench or other similar equipment?
- Adaptive Feeding Devices: Do you use special utensils that help you prepare or eat food independently?
- Electricity-Dependent Equipment: How will you continue to use equipment that runs on electricity, such as dialysis, electrical lifts, etc.? Do you have a safe back-up power supply and how long will it last?
- Disaster Debris: How will you cope with the debris in your home or along your planned exit route following the disaster?
- Transportation: Do you need a specially equipped vehicle or accessible transportation?
- Errands: Do you need help to get groceries, medications and medical supplies? What if your caregiver cannot reach you because roads are blocked or the disaster has affected him or her as well?
- Building Evacuation: Do you need help to leave your home or office? Can you reach and activate an alarm? Will you be able to evacuate independently without relying on auditory cues that may be absent if the electricity is off or alarms are sounding?
- Building Exits: Are there other exits (stairs, windows or ramps) if the elevator is not working or cannot be used? Can you read emergency signs in print or Braille? Do emergency alarms have audible and visible features (marking escape routes and exits) that will work even if electrical service is disrupted?
- Getting Help: How will you call for the help you will need to leave the building? Do you know the locations of text telephones and phones that have amplification? Will your hearing aids work if they get wet from emergency sprinklers? How will you communicate with emergency personnel if you don’t have an interpreter, your hearing aids aren’t working, or if you don’t have a word board or other augmentative communication device?
- Mobility Aids/Ramp Access: What will you do if you cannot find your mobility aids? What will you do if your ramps are shaken loose or become separated from the building?
- Service Animals/Pets: Will you be able to care for your animal during and after a disaster? Do you have another caregiver for your animal if you are unable to meet its needs? Do you have the appropriate licenses for your service animal so you will be permitted to keep it with you should you choose to use an emergency public shelter?
- Community Disaster Plans: Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross Chapter to learn about community response plans, evacuation plans and designated emergency shelters. Ask about the emergency plans and procedures that exist in places you and your family spend time (such as work, schools, senior care centers, and child care centers). If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out in advance what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without private transportation.
- Assistance Programs: Ask about assistance programs. Many communities ask people with a disability to register with the local fire or police department or emergency management office, so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency. Let your personal care attendant know you have registered, and with whom. If you are electric-dependent, be sure to register with your local utility company.
- Learn about other important ways to get informed before an emergency or disaster.