NCD Letter to FEMA Regarding New ODIC Director Following Hurricane Harvey

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September 1, 2017

William B. “Brock” Long
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW
Washington DC 20024

Dear Administrator Long:

I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability-an independent, nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to Congress, the President, and other federal agencies on matters affecting the lives of people with disabilities. NCD was pleased to see the announcement appointing a permanent Director in the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC) and requests a meeting with the new Director to offer its expertise and knowledge to assist in her transition.

The new ODIC Director will face many challenges from the very start. The first being Hurricane Harvey and the start of the hurricane season. It is unclear how many people with disabilities have been impacted by Harvey, but there have been many alarming stories of people with disabilities who have been adversely impacted by this storm. The recovery effort will be extensive and people with disabilities often have needs that will require additional knowledge and resources to be addressed properly. At this critical moment NCD is pleased that ODIC will have a Director to begin addressing the immediate challenges that lie ahead and we offer our assistance going forward.

Lessons were learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Congress responded with the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA). The Act requires, among other things, that FEMA retain a Disability Coordinator (ODIC Director) who would report directly to you on matters and concerns of the disability community and that NCD and FEMA coordinate with each other in matters pertaining to emergency management.[1]

Prior to the establishment of ODIC in 2010, many people with disabilities felt they were treated as expendable in a national emergency. ODIC has worked on changing public perception and policy so that people with disabilities’ needs are addressed and have a seat at the table.

Some of the gains that have been made include a percentage of temporary housing modules provided by FEMA are now wheelchair accessible, as well as designed to meet the needs of those with sensory disabilities. FEMA and Portlight LLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which Portlight provides conferences in an informal environment so that people with disabilities and emergency managers are able to come together and foster inclusive disaster planning and fully accessible disaster services. Emphasis has now been placed on ensuring that emergency shelters are accessible to all people with disabilities. For example, ensuring that the building and bathrooms comply with ADA structural requirements and that interpreters are available.

NCD looks forward to meeting with the new ODIC Director to discuss how NCD can assist with continuing these positive steps, the Director’s transition, and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. At your convenience, please contact Amy Nicholas, Attorney Advisor, at anicholas@ncd.gov to discuss in further detail. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Clyde Terry
Chairperson

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1]  Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 646, 120 Stat. 1426.  Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 648, 120 Stat. 1427.  Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 649, 120 Stat. 1428.  Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 650, 120 Stat. 1428.  Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 689, 120 Stat. 1448. f Pub. L. No. 102-295, sec. 683, 120 Stat. 1446.