Wheelchair accessibility issues seem to concern governmental agencies most as emergency situations arise, but Hurricane Irene left many wondering if it concerns them enough. New York City residents required by Mayor Bloomberg to evacuate Zone A were provided with “access” to emergency evacuation shelters. Despite city claims that numerous shelters would be wheelchair accessible, after surveying six of the city’s shelters, Susan Dooah, from the Center for the Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY), maintained concerns: many people in wheelchairs wouldn’t have access to bathrooms, while others would be forced to sleep sitting up in their chairs due to lack of accessible sleeping accommodations. Garaventa Lift highlights more of the accessibility issues Irene presented across the five boroughs.
Some local governments have already learned from Irene’s mistakes. Flooding in upstate New York yesterday forced over 1,600 people into emergency evacuation shelters. The Broome County Health Department responded by establishing medically supportive shelters staffed with nurses, doctors, and student volunteers to serve the elderly and disabled. Read more about these events here.