Independent Living Center Consumers Begin Preparing

The Capital District Center for Independence is an independent living center serving residents of the greater New York State Capital District. Located in Albany, the Center offers assistance to people with various disabilities. Recently, some consumers sat down with the New York State Disability and Health Program staff to discuss their own emergency plans.

Most of the consumers admitted they had not taken the steps to be prepared for emergencies. When asked why, they said that they were too caught up in dealing with every day routines to think about the "what ifs." But, some people who had made initial steps toward preparation explained what they have done.

Eva Galvin, a homeowner from Niskayuna, NY, who uses a wheelchair, worked with a builder to design her accessible house. She explained that when she was planning her home, she stressed the importance of making every exit wheelchair accessible. Eva admitted that the one thing she forgot to include is an accessible emergency exit from her bedroom. "I should have thought about designing better emergency exits but who stops to think about what might happen? Thankfully, I have never had a reason to evacuate," said Eva.

Don White considered emergency evacuations when building his deck. Don, who uses a wheelchair, designed a ramp at the rear of his house that provides an emergency route for two exits; one from his sleeping area and one from his living room in the central part of the house. The ramp leads to a path away from his house. Don told On Target, "It's important to keep all accessible exits clear, especially in the winter."

For Tony DiGiovannantonio, living with a seizure disorder has made him realize the importance of thinking ahead. Tony has become a member of MedicAlert, a company that provides information to health care providers in event of emergency. Tony wears a MedicAlert bracelet that has a phone number on it. If Tony is unconscious, an emergency worker can call the 800 number and receive his health information.

Some towns and counties in New York have voluntary registries for people with disabilities. Maxcine Johnson, who uses a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis, has registered with the Albany County Office of Community and Emergency Services. Maxcine said that this free service offers her "reassurance should something go wrong." This registry is updated on a yearly basis so Albany County emergency personnel have recent information in case of an evacuation or emergency.

Bob Williams, an Albany County resident with a depressive disorder, said, "I always thought that people with disabilities were taken care of in emergency situations. But, that is not the case." Bob has started planning ahead by getting his car ready for winter. He has extra blankets and gloves in case he is stuck in a snow storm. He also included extra windshield washer fluid. Bob agreed that if he takes preparing one step at a time, it is not so overwhelming.

These individuals have all started the process of preparing for emergencies. They recognize that the steps of preparing are on-going and need to be maintained, particularly for people with disabilities. As Maxcine Johnson stated, "It's up to me to take responsibility for my own safety. If I don't care about it, who will?!"