The stories are numerous, each more gripping and heart-wrenching than the one before it. There is the story of the paralyzed man who had no way out of his apartment as hurricane waters rushed in, and literally floated to the ceiling before neighbors rushed in at the last minute to save him. Then, there is the story of the disabled man and his wheelchair-bound girlfriend who relied on the kindness of strangers to keep the batteries of the man's ventilator charged when power went out.
And then, there are the stories with the worst endings: the legally blind man with cerebral palsy who drowned in his home, and the woman who friends and family watched take her last breath when her apartment - and her oxygen machine - lost power.
Through all of these stories, there is one common thread: should the state and federal government be doing more to help and protect people with disabilities when disaster strikes? All of the stories above are from Hurricane Sandy, but similar stories from Irene, Katrina and other natural disasters abound. And yet, as the years pass and disasters continue to have disproportionate effects on the disabled and the elderly, nothing is done.
The New York City Office of Emergency Management denies any responsibility for the harm suffered by disabled people during disasters, stating that the city's emergency plans were developed to "effectively serve the needs of all New Yorkers, including individuals with disabilities."
Those individuals, however, disagree, which is why they have filed a lawsuit against the city, titled Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. Bloomberg.. Last month, a federal judge granted class-action status to the plaintiffs, who claims that the lack of a comprehensive plan for the evacuation and protection of people with disabilities, putting them at an increased and disproportionate risk of injury and death.
We will continue to update our blog as that lawsuit progresses.
Source: AM New York, "Disabled people especially vulnerable in calamities such as Sandy," Sheila Anne Feeney, Nov. 19, 2012
At our Pittsburgh Social Security Disability law office, we help people with disabilities apply for and receive benefits. For more information, please visit our Social Security Disability page.
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