Disaster Info for People With Disabilities

Drawing from his own experiences as someone with disabilities, a professor at the medical center has launched a new website where others with disabilities can find important information during disasters and emergencies, such as hurricanes. Jim Bell reports.


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Dr. Lex Frieden of the U.T. Health Science Center at Houston is disabled himself, so he knows all about living with disabilities. Frieden has been a force in the disability rights movement for many years. He researched and helped write the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and now he’s taking help for the disabled into cyberspace, with an informational website just for them. Frieden says the need for this website became clear to him after his own home was flooded during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

“Information is the greatest aid that we have in preparing for a disaster and recovering from it. And without information people are just left to their own designs and some of us get a little bit confused and disoriented in the midst of and following an experience like that.”

Frieden is a professor in something called “Health Informatics”, which deals with the science of information and engineering information systems. Who better than he to use his professional expertise and his own personal experiences to create a a new information source for people with disabilities?

“We’ll encourage people to plan an escape route and evacuation strategy. We will tell them of other sites, those that are operated by the City, County and State, which may have valuable current information for them, and we will also provide them with information about what agencies there are following a disaster that can help them in how to make application for appropriate assistance and so forth.”

Frieden says in all of cyberspace, this is the only website he knows of that provides this type of service to this particular target group, and that group is huge. There are at least half a million disabled people in the Houston area alone, and their needs are even more urgent during emergencies and disasters.

“People with disabilities sometimes have needs that are not addressed completely when we do planning for the larger general population. And we believe that it’s important to ensure that customized information that addresses the particular needs that a person might have is available to them.”

The new website is Disability 9-11 dot com.

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.

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