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Leveling the emergency preparedness playing field

Nishamarie Sherry, JD, MPH, Anne Marie Harkins, JD

Abstract


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other similar antidiscrimination laws have always required that comprehensive emergency preparedness programs implemented by government emergency management agencies address the functional needs of people with disabilities. In addition, the Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have issued extensive guidance regarding the application of Title II of the ADA to emergency preparedness initiatives. Nonetheless, emergency managers have hesitated to undertake inclusive preparedness initiatives due to lingering confusion over the type and nature of services that are legally required under the ADA and frustration over the perception that federal emergency preparedness guidelines set unrealistic and unattainable standards for compliance.This confusion is reflected in two recent cases brought against emergency managers in California and New York. Using the claims of those two cases as a backdrop, this article will lay the foundation for a better understanding of how the ADA and related emergency preparedness guidance interact and will discuss how the law and guidance together provide the best direction for emergency managers to practically implement inclusive emergency preparedness programs.

Keywords


ADA, disability, functional needs, special needs, FEMA, Department of Justice, guidelines

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2011.0075

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