People with Disabilities and other Access and Functional Needs

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Disability intersects every demographic group—there are people with disabilities of all ages, races, genders or national origin. And, disabilities can impact a person in a variety of ways—both visible and invisible. For people with disabilities and their families, it is important to consider individual circumstances and needs to effectively prepare for emergencies and disasters. 


Below are numerous resources that help individuals and families with special needs plan and prepare for any emergency. Take the time to prepare ahead of time before a disaster strikes. It could save their life.

Access and Functional Needs

Disability intersects every demographic group—there are people with disabilities of all ages, races, genders or national origin. And, disabilities can impact a person in a variety of ways—both visible and invisible.


Access and Functional Needs includes anyone with physical disability, hearing impairment, sight impairment, language barriers, cultural barriers, economic disparity, the very elderly, the very young, mental or cognitive disabilities, etc. People who are temporarily recovering from surgery or sickness that makes them unable to do what they could normally do makes them someone with an access or functional need.


For people with disabilities and their families, it is important to consider individual circumstances and needs to effectively prepare for emergencies and disasters.

Nevada Disability Statistics

There are an estimated 269,000 people in the state of Nevada over the age of five who have a form of disability. Approximately 50,000 people, or 2.3% of the state's population, experience difficulties with performing activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, or getting around inside of their homes. 

There are around 138,000 people in the state who have a form of work disability, and around 58,000 people with disabilities in Nevada who are employed. Around 8,000 people with disabilities in the state are unemployed, while 77,000 are currently not in the workforce. Source - Disabled World

Additional statistical information on individuals with disabilities in Nevada can be found here:

Nevada Summary

These statistics indicate the social and economic status of non-institutionalized people with disabilities in Nevada, using data from the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS).
Age: In 2018, the prevalence of disability in NV was: 

  • 12.6 percent for persons of all ages 
  • 1.7 percent for persons ages 4 and under 
  • 5.1 percent for persons ages 5 to 15 
  • 6.2 percent for persons ages 16 to 20 
  • 10.4 percent for persons ages 21 to 64 
  • 26.5 percent for persons ages 65 to 74 
  • 47.0 percent for persons ages 75+

Disability Type: In 2018, the prevalence of the six disability types among persons of all ages in NV was:

  • 2.7% reported a Visual Disability
  • 4.0% reported a Hearing Disability
  • 7.0% reported an Ambulatory Disability 
  • 4.7% reported a Cognitive Disability 
  • 2.6% reported a Self-Care Disability 
  • 5.2% reported an Independent Living Disability

Gender: In 2018, 12.3 percent of females of all ages and 12.9 percent of males of all ages in NV reported a disability.
Hispanic/Latino: In 2018, the prevalence of disability among persons of all ages of Hispanic or Latino origin in NV was 8.3 percent.
Race: In NV in 2018, the prevalence of disability for working-age people (ages 21 to 64) was:
  • 11.0 percent among Whites 
  • 12.2 percent among Black / African Americans 
  • 5.8 percent among Asians 
  • 10.2 percent among Native Americans 
  • 9.7 percent among persons of some other race(s)

Get Informed

  • Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place. 
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV, radio, and follow mobile alert and mobile warnings about severe weather in your area. 
  • Download the FEMA app, receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.

Make A Plan

How might a disaster affect you? Could you make it on your own for several days? After a disaster, you may not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore, so it’s crucial to plan for the resources you use regularly, and what you would do if those resources are limited or not available. Additional planning steps should include:

  • Create a support network. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit.
  • Be ready to explain to first responders that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices and supplies.
  • Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services, public transportation or paratransit to identify your local or private accessible transportation options.
  • Inform your support network where you keep your emergency supplies; you may want to consider giving one member a key to your house or apartment.
  • Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be helped quickly in a sudden emergency.
  • If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
  • If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare for its use during a power outage.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
  • If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
  • 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 lost or destroyed.  Keep model information and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.)
  • If you use assistive technology devices, such as white canes, CCTV, text-to-speech software, keep information about model numbers and where you purchased the equipment, etc.
  • Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases, pictures or pictograms.
  • Keep Braille/text communication cards, if used, for 2-way communication.
  • Preparedness tips for diabetics.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services online tool helps people locate and access their electronic health records from a variety of sources.
  • Plan for children with disabilities and people, who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.

Get Your Benefits Electronically

A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:

  • Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or sign up online
  • The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks. Call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online

Build A Kit

In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should contain 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
  • A TTY
  • 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 it, on a portable flash drive, or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
  • Keep 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 lost or destroyed.  Keep Model information, 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, if possible, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. 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. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
  • Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you are unable to purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations, or local charitable groups can help you with the purchase. 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.
  • If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you.

Tips for individuals who may need behavioral support:

  • Plan for children with disabilities and people including individuals who may have post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
  • This may include handheld electronic devices loaded with movies and games (and 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, and comfort snacks and toys that meet needs for stimulation. 

 Additional Items:

  • At least a week-long supply of prescription medicines, along with a list of all medications, dosage, and any allergies
  • Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries
  • Extra wheelchair batteries (manual wheelchair if possible) and/or oxygen
  • 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
  • Handheld electronic devices loaded with movies and games (and spare chargers), headphones to decrease auditory distractions, and comfort snacks and toys that meet needs for stimulation.

Communication Methods for the Blind and Deaf Population

  • Alphabet Gloves - A glove is worn with letters and numbers printed on it. A sighted person spells words by touching the appropriate letter on the glove. The deaf-blind person can tell which letters are meant by knowing which part of the hand was touched. The deaf-blind person must remember where each letter appears on the glove in order to interpret the touches correctly. This is a cumbersome communication method, but it works well when no other system is available.  
  • Manual Alphabet - The manual alphabet is a series of hand motions which depicts letters. In some instances, the fingers are positioned to resemble print letters. Other letters are formed by arbitrary hand positions which bear no resemblance to print symbols. The basics of the alphabet can be learned in a few hours. It takes a good deal of practice to develop speed. The deaf-blind person reads by placing his or her hand over the hand of the person making the letters. It's possible to communicate at a speed similar to that used in shorthand dictation. An interpreter must summarize speeches, lectures, and ordinary conversation. The manual alphabet can be one of the quickest and most versatile communication methods for a deaf-blind person. 
  • Print-in-Palm - It is possible to communicate with deaf-blind people by tracing the shapes of block letters on the palm of their hand with an index finger. Capital letters should be printed and cursive writing should be avoided.
  • Sign Language - Some deaf-blind people were deaf from birth and became blind as teenagers or adults. They prefer the sign language used by deaf people. Instead of watching the hands and arms of friends, they touch the hands of the person making the signs to learn what is being said. It is usually necessary to restrict the movements involved in making signs so that a deaf-blind person can follow along conveniently. This system can lead to confusion. It requires the speaker to have extensive training in sign language. However, it is possible to interpret as quickly as English is spoken using this method.   
  • Tadoma - Tadoma is lip reading by touch. It is not very popular because it is hard to do and not very accurate.  
  • Tellatouch - This device is portable and weighs less than four pounds. It consists of a small typewriter keyboard which the interpreter uses to pass on information. The deaf-blind person sits opposite the typist and places a finger on a small Braille "screen." Each letter that is typed appears briefly under the finger of the deaf-blind person. The letter can be felt as long as the typist holds down the key. Only one letter can be felt at a time. Fifty words per minute is probably the maximum speed of the device. The chief advantage of the Tellatouch is that it allows people who have no specialized training to communicate quickly with the deaf-blind.

Disaster Mitigation for Individuals with Disabilities

1. Accessible Disaster Facilities and Services:  Communications technology is vital for people with disabilities during a disaster to help assess damage, collect information, and deploy supplies. Access to appropriate facilities - housing, beds, toilets, and other necessities -- must be monitored and made available to individuals with disabilities before, during, and after a disaster. This access also must be ensured for those who incur a disability as a result of a disaster. Appropriate planning and management of information related to architectural accessibility improves the provision of disaster services for persons with disabilities.

2. Accessible Communications and Assistance: As communications technology and policy become more integral to disaster relief and mitigation, providing accessibility to the technology for people with disabilities becomes more essential. For example, people with hearing impairments require interpreters, TDD communications, and signaling devices. In addition, written materials must be produced on cassette tape, on CD-ROM, or in large print for people with visual impairments. People with cognitive impairments, such as those with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, or brain injury, require assistance to cope with new surroundings and to minimize confusion factors. It is crucial that people with disabilities help develop accessible communications and reliable assistance technologies.

3. Accessible and Reliable Rescue Communications: Accessible and reliable communications technology is critical to ensuring fast, effective, and competent field treatment of people with disabilities. Current satellite and cellular technology as well as personal communication networks permit communication in areas with a damaged or destroyed communication infrastructure. Communications technologies can assist field personnel in rescue coordination and tracking and can be combined with databases that house information on optimal treatment for particular disabilities or that track the allocation of post disaster resources.

4. Partnerships with the Disability Community: Disability organizations must join with relief and rescue organizations and the media to educate and inform their constituents of disaster contingency and self-help plans. A nationwide awareness effort should be devised and implemented to inform people with disabilities about necessary precautions for imminent disaster. In the event of a sudden natural disaster, such a program would minimize injury and facilitate rescue efforts. In addition, more young people with disabilities should be encouraged to study technology, medicine, science, and engineering as a way of gaining power over future technological advances in disaster relief and mitigation.

5. Disaster Preparation, Education, and Training: Communications technologies are crucial for educating the public about disaster preparedness and warning the people most likely to be affected. Relief and rescue operations must have the appropriate medical equipment, supplies, and training to address the immediate needs of people with disabilities. Affected individuals may require bladder bags, insulin pumps, walkers, or wheelchairs. Relief personnel must be equipped and trained in the use of such equipment. In addition, relief personnel should provide training, particularly for personnel and volunteers in the field, on how to support the independence and dignity of persons with disabilities in the aftermath of a disaster. 

6. Partnerships with the Media: Many natural disasters can be predicted in advance. Disaster preparedness for people with disabilities is critical in minimizing the impact of a disaster. The media -- in partnership with disability and governmental organizations -- should incorporate advisories into emergency broadcasts in formats accessible to people with disabilities. Such advisories alert the public, provide a mechanism for informing rescue personnel of individual medical conditions and impairments, and identify accessible emergency shelters. The creation and repetition of accessible media messages is critical for empowering people with disabilities to protect themselves from disasters.

7. Universal Design and Implementation Strategies: Designing universal access into disaster relief plans, far from being a costly proposition, can pay off handsomely. As accessible communications tools become more widely available, their price will decrease. In addition, a universal design approach to meeting the needs of people with disabilities before and after a disaster will benefit many people without disabilities, such as the very young or the aged. A look at existing agreements among relief organizations and local, state, federal, and international governments will offer guidance in developing effective strategies for universal design and implementation plans. The federal government's role has yet to be defined, but it could encourage or even mandate universal design and set standards. For example, the federal government could provide guidelines for evacuation plans or pre-disaster warning periods.

Personal Disaster Preparedness