Disability Training for Emergency Planners: Serving People with Disabilities

The Ohio Disability and Health Program has produced a one hour training for first responders and emergency planners on inclusive disaster planning for people with disabilities. This training has been approved for Continuing Education Credit (CEU and CPT) for EMS, fire, law enforcement, and nursing personnel through by the Ohio Pease Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) and OSU’s Center for EMS. A certificate of completion will be issued following training and post-test completion.

Please access the training through the “Online CEUs” tab of the OSU Center for EMS website: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/healthcare-professionals/center-for-ems

The training provides emergency planners and first responders with information and best practices that will ensure the safety of people with disabilities during emergency events. This training covers the following learning objectives:

  1. To highlight portions of a Federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 that are relevant for emergency planners. The ADA states that reasonable accommodations must be provided when necessary for people with disabilities to receive the same level of services as the general population.
  2. To provide information and methods that will help to ensure effective and appropriate communication and notification in reaching people with disabilities during emergencies.
  3. To identify groups of people who may need special consideration with regard to transportation and evacuation and to identify best practices for addressing those needs. These will include transporting mobility aids, assistive technology devices, and medical equipment.
  4. To provide information and methods that will ensure independence for people with disabilities in emergency shelters and in the recovery process.
  5. To provide guidance on making the emergency planning process inclusive to individuals with disabilities as well as disability organizations.

Additional resources for emergency planners, many of which are referenced in the training, can be found below.


General Resources

ODHP Resource for Creating Connections in the Disability Community

State and Local Disability Organizations (PDF)

This is a list of state and local disability organizations compiled by ODHP that local Emergency Management Agencies can contact to seek guidance on creating an inclusive emergency plan. Use this list as a starting point and branch out to contact any other local disability organizations in your area.

National and Federal Resources for Inclusive Planning


This website, offered by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, provides information and technical assistant on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. It includes a full text version of the ADA. Title II: State and Local Government Activities and Title III: Public Accommodations are most applicable to emergency planners.

Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities (PDF)

ADA Checklist for Emergency Shelters

Department of Justice ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments (especially Chapter 7- Emergency Management)

Chapter 7 – Emergency Management

ADA National Network: Emergency Preparedness Webinar Series

This webinar series was provided by the Great Lakes ADA Center.  The series covers a variety of topics regarding the inclusion of persons with disabilities into emergency management and preparedness. 

A Guide to Disability Rights Laws

Issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division: This guide provides an overview of Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities, including the ADA.  Contact information for agencies and organizations that can provide more information about how these laws are also provided.

American Red Cross 

The American Red Cross is a national and international organization that exists to provide compassionate care to those in need.  The Red Cross is organized into five key services: areas disaster relief, lifesaving blood, supporting America’s Military Families, health and safety services, and international services.  The Disaster Relief page can be found here: American Red Cross Disaster Relief

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 

FEMA is a Federal Agency whose mission is to support citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover and mitigate all hazards. The following FEMA resources offer specific guidance on inclusive emergency planning for individuals with functional needs.

FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration & Coordination

Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters (PDF)

A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways to Action

Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Older Americans

National Fire Protection Association

The National Fire Protection association gives various resources and information on assisting people with disabilities during evacuation operations.  

Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities (PDF)

Service Animals

Issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division: This document provides the ADA’s 2010 Revised Requirements regarding service animals.

State Resources for Inclusive Planning

Disability Rights Ohio - Emergency Planning

Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities. This includes assisting individuals with problems such as abuse, neglect, discrimination, access to assistive technology, special education, housing, employment, community integration, and the use of service animals. Disability Rights Ohio is Ohio's federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System. This page provides resources to assist individuals in making emergency plans.

National Organization on Disability/The University of Findlay

Proceedings of the Conference on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities. Webcast archives are included.  

Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Ohio

This Tab of Ohio’s state EOP provides planning guidance for meeting federal regulations that impact access and functional needs in general population shelters throughout Ohio.

Transportation Evacuation Planning Toolkit (PDF)

Evacuation transportation Planning Tips for People with Access and Functional Needs from the California Emergency Management Agency's Evacuation/Transportation of People with Access and Functional Needs Planning Project.

Communication Barriers

Communication Tools for Use in Shelters

Communication Passport Accident and Emergency (PDF)

Individuals with communication barriers and special healthcare or functional needs or their caregivers can fill out their personal information on the Passport in advance to help them prepare for emergencies. The Passport can then be reviewed by shelter and healthcare workers and serves as an excellent method for communicating emergency health information.

“I Speak”

“I Speak” is a tool for law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies to identify the language of individuals they encounter who do not speak English.  “I Speak” is provided as a partnership effort between the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.

"Show Me": A Communication Tool for Emergency Shelters (PDF)

This Communication Tool is designed to assist shelter workers to communicate with people who have various types of communication barriers. It provides images that will help shelter workers determine the specific needs, medical concerns, allergies, and other important information, of individuals with whom they cannot communicate orally.

Interpretation Services Resources

Sign Language interpretation services are generally provided for a fee by private agencies or individuals, and can also be accessed via video phone.  You may request a list of accredited interpretation agencies in your area from the Better Business Bureau or contact one of the agencies listed below.

Deaf Services Center

Deaf Services Center is the largest provider of community-based services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the state of Ohio. Interpreters are available 24/7.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID)

RID is a national membership organization for sign language interpreters. You can search their online member directory for local interpreters or e-mail info@rid.org for more information on locating a certified interpreter. 

Portable or telephone interpreter services are also available. Some resources providing interpreter services include Trusted Interpreters and LanguageLine Solutions

The Ohio Relay Service

The Ohio Relay Service is a free public service for communication between standard (voice) users and persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, and speech-disabled using text telephones (TTYs) or PCs via the Internet.

Planning Checklists for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Individuals

Accessible Emergency Information: American Sign Language (ASL) videos on how to prepare for and cope with emergencies

These videos have an audible voice over and text appearing alongside the interpreter. Also, the Emergency Preparedness Guide formatted in Braille, large print, and regular font

Building an Emergency Kit: Checklist

This checklist was put together by the American Association for the Deaf-Blind.

Mobility Impairments

Transportation and Evacuation

ODPS EMS: State Board of Emergency Medical, First and Transportation Services

Ambulettes are specially modified vehicles that can transport people who use wheelchairs.  Information and rules regarding wheelchair accessible ambulettes can be found on the ODPS EMS website. Do a web search to find ambulette providers in your area, or check with the Better Businesses Bureau.

Orientation Manual for First Responders on the Evacuation of People with Disabilities (PDF)

FEMA produced this orientation manual to ensure that first responders to learn how best to perform a rescue using equipment and procedures that facilitate safe evacuation for any person with a disability. The manual provides an overview of disability types, tips, and possible accommodations that may be needed. Carry techniques and evacuation devices that are appropriate for use with people who have physical disabilities or use wheel chairs are also provided.

Rob’s Rescue

The mission of Rob’s Rescue is: to enhance the effectiveness, safety, and sensitivity of the emergency response process for people with special emergency needs and individuals who are morbidly obese through specialized training, patient information, and equipment.  Rob’s Rescue staff is available for technical assistance and also offer presentations that can count for CEU credit. 

Wheel Chair Accessible Taxi Cabs from Yellow Cab of Columbus

Yellow Cab is currently the only taxi service in Columbus that offers wheelchair accessible cabs.  Check on-line to find accessible cab services in other parts of Ohio.  Phone number: 614-444-4444


Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

The Yale Rudd Center works to improve the world’s diet, prevent obesity, and reduce weight stigma.  This worksheet from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is designed to help healthcare providers recognize societal and personal bias against overweight people.


Training for Shelter Workers

Disaster-Resistant Communities Group: Mobility Support Demonstration Videos

Just-In-Time Training (Videos) – Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) Shelter Operations. These videos demonstrate the appropriate ways to assist people with various functional needs which they are in shelters. Includes demonstrations on moving individuals who have mobility impairments and assisting with medical needs.

Functional Needs Focused Care and Shelter Checklist 

June Isaacson Kailes – a listing of guidance on functional needs sheltering and other topics

Planning for the Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters (PDF)

This is a powerpoint from FEMA.  The purpose of the powerpoint is to provide planning guidance to emergency managers and shelter planners in meeting access and functional needs in general population shelters.

Red Cross Serving People with Functional and Access Needs in Shelters (PDF)

This guidebook from the Red Cross is from a Shelter Worker online training about serving people with access and functional needs in shelters. It provides a comprehensive overview for Shelter Workers on how to best serve this population

Animal Sheltering

American Red Cross Pet Safety

This link gives information on how to include pets into the emergency planning process. 

Ohio Regional Animal Response Teams (ARTs)

The ARTs assist local, regional, and state-level animal stakeholders, organizations, businesses, and individuals by improving animal emergency plans, and conducting animal activities, exercises, and responses.  We have included the link to the following response teams in Ohio below.

Map of Regional Animal Response Teams

Ohio Region 1- Disaster Animal Response Team (DART)

Ohio Regions 2 & 5- The County Animals Rescue and Evacuation (C.A.R.E.)

Ohio Region 4- Central Ohio Animal Response Team

Ohio Region 6- Tri-State County Animal Response Team (CART)

Ohio Region 7- Disaster Animal Response Team of Athens County (DART)

Medical Needs

Emergency Power Planning for People Who Use Electricity and Battery Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices (PDF)

June Isaacson Kailes – This is an emergency power planning checklist for people who use electricity and battery dependent assistive technology and medical devices.

Pacific ADA Center 

Emergency Preparedness Tips and Checklists for people who use electricity and battery dependent assistive technology and medical devices.

The Kidney Community Emergency Response Coalition

This website provides multiple resources for disaster planning for dialysis and kidney transplant patients. 

Preparing for Emergencies: A Guide for People on Dialysis (PDF)

Ohio Disability and Health Program on Facebook

If you have trouble accessing anything on this page, please contact us by e-mail or phone. We will gladly provide you with technical assistance and address accessibility problems whenever possible. Thanks!