Disabilities, Access, and Functional Needs

How well you recover from an emergency often depends on how well you plan and prepare for such events. And some people may need to make special arrangements to ensure they are adequately prepared. For instance, those who are deaf or hard of hearing may need to make arrangements to receive emergency warnings. People without vehicles may need to arrange for transportation, while those with special dietary needs, may need to arrange for a different emergency food supply.

While each person’s abilities and needs differ, everyone can take steps to prepare for all types of emergencies. By planning today, you can better prepare for any emergency situation.


Plan now for what you need to stay safe, healthy and independent during a disaster. Remember some disasters may require that you stay at home, while in others you may need to evacuate to a friend’s house or an emergency shelter.

In addition to items in the basic emergency supply kit, people with functional needs may need additional Emergency Items to help them.

For more emergency preparedness information, visit the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.

Sign up for FEMA RSS Feeds or emergency emails and text messages from your local government alert system to get important information on your cell phone or pager, in case you are deaf, hard of hearing, or not able access emergency notifications when they occur.

Staying Independent

As you prepare, consider all the strategies, services, devices, tools and techniques you use to live with a disability on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you may need medications, durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, your service animal, assistive technology, communications tools, disability service providers, accessible housing, transportation and health-related items.

  • Create a support network to help you plan for an emergency. Consider family, neighbors, friends, people who provide services to you, faith-based and community groups. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies. Give at least one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.
  • Contact your city or county government’s emergency management office and work with them to use their emergency planning resources.
  • If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
  • Show others how to operate your wheelchair or other assistive devices
  • Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place. If you provide any organizations or service providers with information about your functional needs and what you may require in an emergency, keep that data updated.
  • If you use in-home support services, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert or other support services, work with them to personalize emergency preparedness plans to meet your needs so you can keep in touch with them during and after an emergency. That contact may be your lifeline to other services in a disaster.
  • Work with local transportation and disability services (e.g., Paratransit, Independent Living Centers) to plan ahead for accessible transportation if you may need that for evacuation or other reasons during a disaster.
  • Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice or other forms of in-home assistance.

Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.

Federal Benefits

If you receive federal disability benefits, consider receiving payments electronically. Following disasters, mailed checks can be delayed significantly. Using the direct deposit method is safer than a paper check, and saves you a trip to the bank every month. To sign up for Social Security direct deposit, call (800) 333-1795, or visit GoDirect.org

You can also use a Direct Express® prepaid debit card as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks if you don’t have a bank account. Sign up is easy – call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online at www.USDirectExpress.com.

Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® card is a simple but important step that can help protect your family’s access to funds in emergencies. Consider switching to one of these safer, easier options today.

More Information

For more information on how people with disabilities and other functional needs can prepare for emergencies, visit