Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities
Brian DeLevie, Founding CMTC Co-Director, in collaboration with the following:
Assistive technology partners in the College of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, the College of Arts and Media, the Instructional Design and Adult Learning Center in the College of Education, and the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council
A cross-disciplinary team of experts are developing an online ‘just-in-time” emergency preparedness training for persons with disabilities, their family members and caregivers.
Problem that Inspired Research:
Individuals with disabilities are not always included in local emergency preparedness planning processes and training. This training is being developed in an effort to increase the awareness of persons with disabilities of their roles and responsibilities before during and after an emergency, what they need to consider during an emergency, and the supplies they need to maintain their independence and safety.
Objective / Proposed Solution:
By providing a ‘just-in-time’ web based training, individuals with disabilities, their family members and caregivers, have access to information they require regarding their disabilities and living situation in an emergency and at a time when it is convenient for them. By educating these individuals about their personal responsibilities, they are better prepared and rely less on public services and reduce the overall costs during and after an emergency/disaster to the community.
Greatest Challenge to Overcome:
The greatest challenge has been overcoming the ‘victim mentality’ and making sure individuals with disabilities understand the need to plan for their own safety, identify what assistance they require, and who is going to provide it. By educating them on what they need to plan for and the actions they need to take, it assists the emergency community in including these individuals in the planning process, making the community a safer place to live, work, and play.
Benefits of Research:
The information included in this training benefits all individuals with disabilities, all types of limitations, and all ages across the United States. It helps everyone regardless of where they live, determine what they need to consider when planning for someone with a disability to ensure they have the equipment to survive and stay healthy, and maintain their independence.
The emergency managers and planners can utilize this information to assist with their local community planning, again reducing the overall cost of response during and after an emergency/disaster.
Innovations to Media and Technology:
The filming component of the project provided an opportunity to educate members of the film industry and media students on the value individuals with disabilities provide to visual media. They were all exposed to the accessibility features (deaf trainer, closed captioning, video description, simple language) to consider in such a project to make it usable/valuable to everyone regardless of their limitations (cognitive, vision, hearing, speech, and mobility). All members of the film crew mentioned the impact of working with actors with disabilities and how it affected the way they will think about the inclusion of people with disabilities in their future work. They also mentioned the need for them to think more broadly about emergency preparedness at their work locations and the various types of hazards they may encounter.
Cutting-edge Technology Being Used:
This project contributed to all fields of study in media and technology. Learning to film individuals with disabilities in a positive manner and portraying them in a strength-based fashion is imperative to the acceptance of individuals with disabilities by the public. Learning to record individuals with various voice qualities, whether natural or digital, is also a challenge. Editing required the biggest challenge, ensuring the best possible representation of these individuals, physically and auditorily. The editors also had to ensure individuals who use American Sign Language were both understood and their manual signs were included in the visuals. Creativity was encouraged to develop digital solutions for creating a better image of the narrator and for blocking individuals out of the picture.
This project could not exist without the collaboration of the Assistive Technology Partners in the College of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, the Comcast Media and Technology Center in the College of Arts and Media, the Instructional Design and Adult Learning Center in the College of Education, and the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council.