June 06, 2006

Katrina: Lessons Never Learned

Those who followed the coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami the the Rolling Rains Report know that an international network of Rolling Rains readers was formed to study previous disaster cases and communicate best practices to relief staff on the ground in the affected areas. Internationally known Universal Design specialists were generous without reserve in assuring that everything possible was done to see that devastated regions were provided with the technical support necessary to rebuild the damaged areas in ways that guaranteed inclusion.

Our focus was on the travel & hospitality infrastructure because that is the focus of this blog but public infrastructure and private housing cannot be overlookd as decades of work on accessible transit and home Visitability have demonstarted.

So there was simply no excuse whatsoever that, overlooking the serious mistakes during Katrina evacuation that cost the lives of some and injured other residents with disabilities, that FEMA-funded housing provided after the storm was not 100% wheelchair visitable. No excuse.

The National Journal reports on continued mismanagement. Here in the form of the apparent "can do" attitude riding rough shod over Daniel Sutherland's systemic approach that would generate both written policy and adequate resourcing for disaster services for citizens with disabilities.

The bottom line? Among other things, Universal Design is still not used in federally subsidized post-disaster housing. Visitability, requiring only a simple, zero-cost tweak to the handful of manufactered home templates used to crank out thousands of taxpayer-funded trailer for Katrina survivors, is not mandated. The built envronment created after Katrina is at least as, and in some cases significantly more, inaccessible than the original.

No wonder Jeff Rosen speaks for human rights advocates everywhere when he voices the ubiquitous frustration.

"All that we have heard is verbal commitments," said Jeff Rosen, policy director for the National Council on Disability, an independent federal panel that advises the White House and Congress on disability policy. "Secretary Chertoff made a commitment to changing the infrastructure of DHS, especially FEMA, to better serve people with disabilities, but we haven't seen anything yet. There have been some important incremental steps that have been taken, but these issues are in no way able to be dealt with in incremental ways."

The seven principles of Universal Design are a proven solution for creating appropriate, space, products, and policy. The best practices are documented and disseminated.

They are being ignored.



For another god analysis see The Long-Term Care Weblog

Posted by rollingrains at June 6, 2006 10:53 PM