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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Are You Wondering How You Can Help Disaster Survivors Right Now?

A message from the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee

Our country has been wracked recently with one natural disaster after another. Right now there are three storms in the Atlantic with one of them heading straight toward the American Territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which have not yet begun their recovery from Hurricane Irma. Texas will be recovering from Hurricane Harvey for years and we must not forget about the wildfires in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, and other western states.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingBecause we have done a great job of advocating for home and community-based services over the years, we are living lives of increased freedom in the community, which naturally means that we are more susceptible to adverse changes in those communities. A Hurricane wreaks havoc on the natural support systems that we depend on to live independently.

Fortunately, there is a dedicated group of individuals who recognize our vulnerability in a disaster and have, over the past 20 years, formed agencies, committees, and task forces to address the specific issues of people with disabilities affected by disaster. These agencies are stepping up in incredible ways to help our people who are hungry, homeless, and without their usual support systems as a result of a recent natural disaster. Many of you are asking how you can help and where and what to donate. Here are four specific ways. 

1. NCIL’s Disaster Relief Fund – This fund was established following Hurricane Katrina when CILs incurred damage to their offices that insurance would not fully cover. The CILs and SILCs needed assistance with the purchase of new equipment, office furniture, etc. in order to get back to business. Be sure to click “I would like to direct my money to a specific fund” and then select “CIL Disaster Relief”.

2. The Pass It On Center, through a partnership with Portlight Strategies, has created the Portlight Portal – a procedure for requesting/sending equipment and designed for organization-to-organization match. Having a dedicated access point for organizations to request and track donated durable medical equipment (DME) is crucial to the safe and appropriate matching of equipment during the disaster response process. Once DME requests are in the web portal, donated equipment is matched and assigned to those in need. This Portal is actively being used and is providing a documented process of the great work being done to provide relief in these areas. The AT | DME | Supplies Wiki for Irma contains Irma-specific resources.

3. Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies has been on the front lines of disaster relief for the disability community since 1997. Portlight has been instrumental in providing invaluable durable medical equipment and supplies to hard-hit areas throughout the country. Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas several weeks ago, Portlight has met the needs of hundreds of individuals who have contacted them through their hotline and through Centers for Independent Living. These needs have varied from the need for medical equipment to rescue from flooded homes. Portlight CEO Paul Timmons has been selected to speak before the Senate Committee on Aging at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 9:00 am regarding the needs of individuals with disabilities and the aging. The hearing and testimony will be live streamed. Donations can be made at

4. The Disaster Accountability Project has established SmartResponse. SmartResponse is an online platform that collects and analyzes location specific, pre- and post-disaster data from local, state and national organizations providing humanitarian assistance. SmartResponse is the first independent, data-driven resource to display location-specific information from these organizations including: budget, legal/registration status, types of services provided by sector, number of staff on the ground, history of involvement in a particular location, partners and organizational affiliations, start and end dates of relief efforts, and total funds raised and spent on that particular response. You can donate via their website at the link above.

5. Finally – GET INVOLVED in local emergency management! To find out how, email the Co-Chairs of the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee. The members of the EP Subcommittee have all been involved in national, state, and local emergency management for a number of years, with some success. Email Christy Dunaway at or Todd Holloway at They’d love to tell you how to be involved!

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