Lesson 5: Achieving Inclusion Through Collaboration

Lesson Overview

This lesson applies the concepts you learned so far to your work as a member of the disaster operation.

Upon completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Relate the principles of disability integration to JFO staff activities.
  • Identify how JFO staff can support the integration of the access and functional needs of disaster survivors with or without disabilities into disaster operations.
  • Identify personal actions to advance the integration of the access and functional needs of disaster survivors with or without disabilities in disaster operations.


Achieving Inclusion

This course emphasizes the importance of achieving inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs:

  • Lesson 1 introduced the principle of inclusion.
  • Lesson 2 provided a brief history of the struggle for full inclusion in society.
  • Lesson 3 discussed FEMA inclusion initiatives.
  • Lesson 4 addressed the role of the Disability Integration Advisor in helping achieve inclusion.

Inclusion can be achieved in two basic ways:

  • Group action and collaboration
  • Personal action and commitment

We will now look at these two approaches and discuss how they can be applied to achieve full inclusion by JFO staff.


What Is Collaboration?

Collaboration occurs when organizations or groups produce something by:

  • Combining efforts.
  • Sharing ownership of the outcome.
  • Making joint decisions.
  • Exchanging expertise, information, and resources.

Different JFO staff members may collaborate to respond to the needs of a disaster survivor who may have access and functional needs, and to provide equal access to FEMA programs. For example:

  • DRC Coordinator/Manager, Logistics Chief, IT staff, Safety Officer, Disability Integration Advisor, and Security Officer perform joint reviews of proposed sites to consider designation of a property for use as a FEMA DRC. Team review assures full accessibility of the site for all disaster survivors and employees.
  • The Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) identifies survivors in the community with immediate needs to maintain health, safety, and independence.
  • External Affairs publicizes a DRC opening using a variety of accessible methods and technology.
  • The Safety Officer visits the DRC to check physical accessibility.
  • Individual Assistance, Equal Rights, Logistics, and IT staff coordinate with the Disability Integration Advisor to assure needed assistive equipment and resources such as sign language interpreters are in place at the DRC and that training is delivered to all staff.


Collaborate To Respond to the Need

You may recall from Lesson 1 that in a disaster setting, people with disabilities and older adults may:

  • Experience health-related problems, including hyperthermia or hypothermia, as a result of the disaster.
  • Require longer periods of time for recovery from injury or other adverse effects of the disaster.
  • Experience memory disorders as a result of the disaster.
  • Lose or misplace medications during the disaster.
  • Communication aids, mobility devices, and other support services may be lost or damaged during the disaster.


Collaboration Building Blocks

Successful collaboration is built on a solid foundation that includes a few simple steps:

  • Identify the right people to help solve a problem or address an issue;
  • Establish a shared purpose or goal (e.g., assist the survivor to meet transportation needs);
  • Agree on a plan of action to accomplish the goal (including roles and target deadlines); and
  • Implement or follow through to ensure that the action has been taken and the desired outcome has been achieved.
  • Review actions taken to identify what worked well and what could be done better next time.


Introduction: Case Study of Collaboration

As you read the following case study, think about how FEMA and the local community might address the current situation.

Three weeks after a devastating tornado struck Joplin, MO, the local Independent Living Center contacted the Disability Integration Advisor about a phone call from a friend of an older couple who were living in the back of a warehouse after losing their home and all of their possessions.

Mrs. A had been using a hospital bed due to paralysis from a stroke 5 years earlier and was being assisted by her husband. When the tornado came through, Mr. A protected his wife by throwing himself on top of her. Both survived with no injuries, but everything they owned was gone.

Through the help of a friend, the couple was living in a two-room area at the back of a warehouse that had a kitchenette, toilet, and a small room they could use as a bedroom. Mrs. A was being assisted by her husband who was legally blind.

The warehouse was located outside of Joplin and there were no transportation services. Every day, Mr. A would hitch a ride to Joplin to pick up supplies he needed for his wife. It was in the upper 90s to low 100s outside.

Mr. and Mrs. A had applied for FEMA assistance but had not yet heard anything.


Case Study of Collaboration

Read as a FEMA Individual Assistance Specialist describes how collaboration allowed the response team to meet the needs of the older couple who lost their home after the Joplin tornado in 2011.

We didn’t realize that this couple was living in the back of a warehouse after their home was destroyed. The local Independent Living Center folks alerted the Disability Integration Advisor, and she contacted us. We found out that when the couple registered over the phone, they didn’t say they needed accessible housing.

The Disability Integration Advisor assisted the husband to report his current situation and the need for accessible housing.

In response, the couple was immediately placed on the list for accessible housing. In addition, Individual Assistance representatives and the Disability Integration Advisor went to the warehouse where the couple was staying to talk to them about their options.

We learned that the couple had no homeowner’s insurance or comprehensive car insurance, and therefore could depend upon only the maximum assistance allowed by FEMA.

The husband initially was hesitant to take housing assistance that he felt others worse off might need, but by the end of the week, the couple was living in accessible temporary housing. The husband reported that their housing was in a quiet part of town backed up against many trees for his wife to look out upon and enjoy.

This assistance was due to the collaboration among Individual Assistance, the DIA, and the Independent Living Center.


Achieving Inclusion Through Personal Action and Commitment

Personal actions and commitment by JFO staff can also help achieve inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in disaster operations.

The principles and practices discussed in this course can provide a foundation for personal action and commitment on the part of JFO staff.

We will now review some of the personal actions that can be taken to help achieve inclusion.


Personal Action #1: Put People First When You Speak

 “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
— George Orwell

“People first” language simply means choosing words that are appropriate and respectful by:

  • Focusing on people’s abilities instead of their limitations.
  • Putting the person first to demonstrate his or her dignity and worth.

An example of this approach is to say “people with disabilities” instead of “disabled people.”

Language Guidelines for Inclusive Emergency Preparedness, Response, Mitigation, and Recovery

FEMA is committed to working toward emergency management language and practices that are inclusive of people with disabilities, and recognizes the power of language in setting the stage for successful “Whole Community” efforts.

The table below offers language guidelines for referring to people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. This chart is based on several key principles:

  • Use people-first language; place the emphasis on the individual instead of the disability.
  • Use terms consistent with the integration mandate in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires public agencies to provide services “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.”
  • Use language that is respectful and straightforward.
  • Refer to a person’s disability only if it is relevant.
  • Avoid terms that lead to exclusion (e.g., “special” is associated with “separate” and “segregated” services).
  • Avoid terms that are judgmental, negative, or sensational (e.g., special, brave, courageous, dumb, super-human).
  • Avoid making assumptions or generalizations about the level of functioning of an individual based on their diagnosis or disability. Individuals are unique and have diverse abilities and characteristics.

Language influences behavior. Inclusive language is a powerful ingredient for achieving successful outcomes that are beneficial for the whole community.

Preferred Avoid
People with disabilities The handicapped, the disabled, the impaired
An individual or person with a disability Disabled person
She has access and functional needs; the access and functional needs of people with disabilities; others who also have access and functional needs Special needs, vulnerable, he’s an AFN, the AFNs,
Deaf, hard of hearing, hearing loss, sensory disability Deaf and dumb, the deaf, mute, hearing impaired
Accessible communication, effective communication Special communication
He has a speech disability He has a speech impairment, speech impediment
He is blind, he has low vision The blind, sight impaired
She has a mobility disability She’s mobility impaired, physically challenged, crippled, an invalid, lame, differently-abled, bedridden, house-bound, a shut-in
She has… (multiple sclerosis, cancer, etc.) She suffers from, is afflicted with, is stricken with, is impaired by
He uses a wheelchair, he uses a scooter, he uses a mobility device Wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair person
Assistive devices, assistive technology, durable medical equipment Handicapped equipment, special devices
Power chair, motorized wheelchair Electric wheelchair
She sustained a spinal cord injury, she has paralysis, she is a spinal cord injury survivor, has paraplegia, quadriplegia She’s paralyzed, she’s a cripple, she’s trapped in her body, her body is lifeless, crippled, useless
Prosthesis, prosthetic limb Fake leg, wooden leg, peg leg
He has cerebral palsy He’s spastic, palsied
He has epilepsy, he has seizures He has spells, fits
She is a little person, she has dwarfism, he is of short stature She’s a dwarf, she’s a midget
She has Down syndrome She’s Downs, a Down’s kid, mongoloid, retarded
He has a learning disability He is learning disabled, slow, slow learner, dumb
A person with an intellectual disability, developmental disability The mentally retarded, retard, retarded, mental retardation, mentally impaired
A woman with a cognitive disability, a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease Senile, demented
A child with a traumatic brain injury or a person who sustained a head injury Brain damaged, slow
He has autism, he is autistic (this term is preferred by some people with autism) Mental, mentally impaired, retarded, dumb
She has a mental illness, a mental health disability, psychiatric disability; she has a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, uses behavioral health services Emotionally disturbed, disturbed, crazy, psycho, schizo, insane, manic, manic depression, mental, mental patient; she has a behavior problem, she needs behavior management, she’s a problem child, she is crazy, she is out of control
Congenital disability, sustained a birth injury, acquired at birth Birth defect, defective
Children who receive special education services, children with Individual Education Plans Special education kid, special needs child, rides the short bus, SPED, he’s special ed, he is special
Senior, older person, older adult or elder with a disability The frail elderly, the elderly
Accessible bathroom, accessible parking, accessible housing, accessible transportation Handicapped bathrooms, handicapped parking, special needs housing, special housing, special transportation
Medical needs, acute medical needs, health care needs Special medical needs
She requires support or assistance with… She has a problem with …
Planning with people with disabilities Planning for the disabled
Whole Community planning, inclusive planning, integrated planning Special needs planning, special plans, special needs annex
Universal cot, accessible cot ADA cot, special needs cot, special medical cot
Personal assistance services; personal care assistance for children, youth, and adults; caregiver (more appropriate with children) Patient care, caregiver (for an adult), carer, takes care of
Functional needs support services in a general population shelter, accessible shelter, universal shelter Special needs shelter, special shelter, special functional needs shelter
Person who receives disability services Client, patient (unless referring to the acute care services of a nurse or doctor), burden, welfare case
Disaster survivor Disaster victim (when used to describe an individual who survived the disaster)

The difference between the right word and the almost right word
is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

-Mark Twain


Personal Action #2: Seek Advice

JFO staff will encounter a variety of situations that involve people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs who may be:

  • Disaster survivors
  • Colleagues at the JFO

Remember that the Disability Integration Advisor is available to answer questions, make appropriate referrals, solve problems, and ensure that there are no barriers to full participation.


Personal Action #3: Show Respect

Practice basic etiquette when meeting people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

For example:

  • Do not shout at a person who is deaf or hard of hearing unless asked to do so. Speak in a normal tone but make sure your mouth is visible.
  • When meeting someone who is blind or has low vision, identify yourself and others with you (e.g., “Jane is on my left and Jack is on my right.”). Continue to identify the person with whom you are speaking.
  • If the person's speech is difficult to understand, do not hesitate to ask him or her to repeat what was said. Never pretend to understand when you do not.
  • Finding a place to sit and talk if a person has decreased physical stamina and endurance, which is preferable to standing during the entire interaction.
  • Placing yourself at eye level with the person when conversing. Some ways to accomplish this without drawing attention to yourself are kneeling, sitting on a chair, or standing a little farther away to reduce the steep angle of the sightline. This is effective when interacting with all people who are sitting as well as persons with short stature.


Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you learned about ways to achieve inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into disaster operations.