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

Disability Stakeholder Organizations Commemorate Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and Portlight Strategies (Portlight), national disability stakeholder organizations, today issued the following statement commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

Portlight Strategies logo“Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, taking hundreds of lives, upending thousands of others and ravaging communities. People with disabilities died and were harmed in disproportionate numbers. This week NCIL and Portlight are commemorating all those impacted by Katrina (especially people with disabilities), honoring the resilience of the survivors, acknowledging the failures which exacerbated the human toll, and recognizing important steps made in the last ten years to ensure that people with disabilities are better served in future disasters and are intimately involved in the planning and execution of those efforts.”

“NCIL and Portlight have both worked over the last ten years to identify institutional and systemic failures which led to the deaths, displacement and anguish of people with disabilities resulting from Hurricane Katrina. We have worked TOGETHER, in a spirit of community, to create and nurture effective solutions, encourage emergency management institutions and organizations to take our issues seriously, and to build meaningful relationships between people with disabilities and our stakeholder organizations and those whose jobs it is to serve us in disaster situations.”

In the last ten years, a number of initiatives have been instituted by NCIL and Portlight as the result of lessons learned from the Katrina experience. These efforts are bearing tangible positive fruit for people with disabilities and include:

  • Establishment of the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee – This subcommittee meets monthly to compare notes, share best practices, review problematic issues and strategize advocacy and solutions.
  • Portlight has created a deployable shelter accessibility module that contains a wide variety of tools and equipment is made available to shelter operators to help ensure safe and accessible shelters
  • NCIL / American Red Cross Memorandum of Understanding
  • Portlight / American Red Cross Memorandum of Understanding
  • NCIL / Portlight Memorandum of Understanding
  • NCIL / FEMA Memorandum of Agreement
  • Portlight / FEMA Memorandum of Agreement

These Memoranda have created a solid foundation of respect and cooperation between disability community stakeholder organizations and emergency management organizations upon which is being built a solid infrastructure of solutions. These agreements are the crucial manifestation of the critical importance of community building and relationship building in addressing and solving issues involving people with disabilities. 

  • Portlight’s creation of the Getting It Right National conference series
  • NCIL and Portlight representatives deployed together with Red Cross personnel into disaster situations

Marcie Roth, Director of FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, says of the progress made in the last ten years: ” Hurricane Katrina changed the way we do business and the way we work with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and our whole community partners. There is still progress to be made, but we continue to lean forward. FEMA is committed to leading national efforts to plan with people with disabilities rather than for them. This is good for the whole community, not just people with disabilities and our collaboration with NCIL and Portlight is a cornerstone of this effort.”

“The American Red Cross is proud to partner with Portlight Strategies, Inc. and the National Council on Independent Living to further our mutual goal of providing inclusive services and resources to serve individuals with disabilities,” said April Wood, senior director of community mobilization and partnerships for the Red Cross. “As we reflect on the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we know that our expanded partnerships with experts in the disability community has enhanced our ability to help everyone affected by disasters.”

Moving forward together, NCIL and Portlight honor the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by recommitting ourselves to ensuring that people with disabilities are well and appropriately served at all levels of disaster and emergency planning and response.

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.

Portlight Strategies, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1997 by people with disabilities to serve to the disaster planning and response needs of people with disabilities.

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