There have been many things to celebrate in the history of our nation. Not the least of these is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), established in 1990. Celebrations around the country marked the 25th anniversary of the ADA and the changes it brought to the lives of community members from all walks of life. Behind ADA construction accessibility rules that changed sidewalk curbs and restroom stalls, lies the bigger picture – Americans are celebrating a transition towards a new way of thinking, and defining ourselves not by our limitations, but by our abilities and potential.
In few places is this more obvious than in the nation’s approach to emergencies and emergency planning, where radical changes have begun a ripple effect of accessible emergency shelters. Emergency responders are becoming more educated about the diverse members of their communities, and people nationwide are taking increased responsibility for their own personal preparedness.
As a result of what began 25 years ago with one piece of legislation, individuals with disabilities all over the country are among those who are learning the importance of personal preparedness, self- reliance and taking charge of their own safety.
For many people, both with and without disabilities, following the steps to personal preparedness becomes an empowering experience that they want to share with others. They also realize that we all have something to contribute to a sustainable and resilient community, both in daily life and in emergency situations. This understanding exemplifies the perspective of the ADA and puts it into real life action.
Even those who are advocates for personal preparedness can struggle to find an avenue to contribute their expertise and knowledge to an emergency response scenario. BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (EMD) knows that subject matter expertise can come from members of every community – so BCFS EMD created an interactive, online course designed to train volunteers on how to serve during a disaster response.
Hundreds of people across the country – with and without disabilities – have taken the course to learn the basics of how to be effectively involved in an emergency and what to expect as a disaster volunteer. The course was built to be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, and includes narrated lessons and text-only versions.
After completing the training, participants can register as a disaster volunteer and post their areas of expertise. Allowing individuals the opportunity to become prepared by personally experiencing training in their own way and at their own pace, and then allowing them to share that knowledge, facilitates people being included and involved as a valuable contributor to their community. This is the true spirit of the ADA.
People with and without disabilities, responders and volunteers, working together for a better community in daily life and emergencies. This is the true spirit of the ADA, and this is cause for celebration!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life – to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. The ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.
Complete an interactive, one-hour online course to be registered as a BCFS EMD disaster volunteer!
The course will introduce you to some of the skills that may be asked of you as a disaster volunteer serving in the aftermath of a natural disaster or other emergency.
- Examples of volunteer duties include, but are not limited to: serving food, unpacking supplies, setting up temporary shelters, helping disaster survivors complete paperwork, and/or providing helpful information or services related to the volunteer’s area of expertise
- Each volunteer’s tasks are determined by their background, experience and capabilities
- Anyone in the U.S. at least 16 years old may register as a volunteer • Registering does not obligate you to serve during a disaster