Online Program

A Snapshot of the Available Accessibility Features for People with Physical Disabilities Across Potential Emergency Shelters

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 11:10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Kiyoshi Yamaki, PhD, Department of Disability and Human Development, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Susun Xiong, BA, MS Candidate, Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Carla Cox, MPH, CHES, Illinois Disability and Health Program, Illinois Department of Public Health, Springfield, IL
Bryan Soady, MA, American Red Cross South Central Illinois, Springfield, IL
Background:  There is a dearth of information about accessibility features available across emergency shelters. Lack of such information may be attributable, at least partially, to the fact that the shelters are operated by diverse organizations using a wide range of architecture and only open during the disaster. By examining the extent of accessibility features available across buildings and structures that will be used as emergency shelters, our goal is to assist emergency planners and shelter managers in developing an advance plan, which will better accommodate people with physical disabilities when disasters happen.

Methods:  Data on building-related accessibility features among potential emergency shelters (n = 2,645) were extracted from the American Red Cross National Shelter System (NSS). NSS is an active database, in which the data are updated regularly and used to track and report shelter information. Our analysis included the following specific domains: parking, entrance, ramp, restroom, shower, and eating areas.

Results:  Our preliminary results suggest that many accessibility features are not widely available among the buildings and structures we examined. For example, a small proportion have doorways (37%) and ramps (40%) complying with the ADA standards. Restrooms are not wide enough for wheelchair users (72%) and are missing appropriate grab bars (65%). Only 15% have an accessible shower stall. Serving lines or counters in the eating area are too high for wheelchair users in 75% of shelters.

Conclusion:  There is a need to increase accessible features available in shelters when planning for a disaster.

Learning Areas:

Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
List two examples of accessibility features that are less common in emergency shelters. Identify resources on temporary modification of shelters.

Keyword(s): Emergency Preparedness, Accessibility

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am master's student in the Department of Disability and Human Development. I took the lead in conducting the analysis of the NSS data for preliminary findings.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.