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August 28, 2006

Disability Preparedness Solution in Florida


Linda Carter, a reader of The NewStandard, called us last week after reading an article we published about the lack of inclusive emergency planning for people with disabilities. Carter wanted to tell us about her struggles trying to convince the state of Florida to create an effective disaster preparedness plan. When the state failed to come through, Carter said she decided to take measures into her own hands. She told us she had the solution to ensure that disabled people are never left behind in emergencies again. In fact, she said, she’s already begun implementing her solution in Florida, albeit without the state’s help.

Interested, I followed-up with Carter. It turns out that she’s a one-woman show working tirelessly to create a disaster management plan for the disabled in her state. But her plan, she said, could go nationwide. It’s called No Person Left Behind, which Linda said "was created by people with disabilities for people with disabilities." Linda is legally blind and mobility impaired.

Her idea is simple – she offers a voluntary on-line registration form that could provide vital information to emergency managers during a disaster. Using the registration form, Carter says counties can create an action plan for each individual. Questions on the form include: Do you have a service animal? What is you service animal’s name? If you have shutters for your residence, do you need help putting them up for the hurricane? Do you have a generator? Can you use a manual wheelchair in case of an emergency?

While Carter’s program has primarily focused on counties in Southwest Florida, she would like to see a state-wide database established, which would incorporate information about regional residents with disabilities.

So far, Carter said only 100 people have voluntarily registered with the program. The problem, she says, is lack of funding and support. Since 2005, Carter has been seeking an endorsement and funding from the Florida legislature to establish a Commission to oversee the registration process of people with disabilities. She said lawmakers in Florida have yet to support the project. Rather, she has had to fall back on private donors, which has been difficult.

Carter’s struggle to get her program off the ground highlights once again that the burden of disability preparedness plans is falling on the disabled, and not on the state and local programs that are tasked with emergency planning.

Click here to read about No Person Left Behind.







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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.