Inclusive Emergency Management 101: Integrating the Disability Community in Disaster Planning and Response

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll: Registered users.
Course Language: English

About the Course

Inclusive Emergency Management 101: Integrating the Disability Community in Disaster Planning and Response


According to the 2010 Survey of Income and Participation, nearly 57 million Americans reported living with at least one disabling condition. Research indicates that individuals with disabilities are disproportionately affected by disasters. They are also, by necessity, masterful problem solvers, and subject matter experts on what is required to meet their needs in a disaster, and how best to maintain their independence and self-determination during evacuation and sheltering. It is critical that they be included in both government and non-government disaster planning at local, state and national levels.


Historically, emergency management has most often planned for people with disabilities as "patients" with medical needs, rather than included in disaster planning as independent, self-sufficient members of their communities who bring valuable expertise to the table. Inclusion of the disability community in all aspects of emergency management - planning with them, rather than for them - can mitigate death and injury. This course will bring emphasis to the critical importance of inclusion, and equip students with the knowledge and tools to facilitate it in both steady state (blue-sky) and disaster response (gray-sky) operations.

Key Concepts:

Provide the student with an immersive view of disability culture by sharing an open and honest look at the daily lives of individuals with disabilities, the fight for equality and inclusion in all aspects of life, the evolution of addressing access and functional needs, and the effects of non-inclusive planning.

Inclusion of the disability community is the best practice for ensuring equal physical, programmatic, and effective communications access throughout the disaster cycle of response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness. However, if such equal access is NOT provided, there can be (and have been) legal ramifications for federal, state and local government.

People with disabilities live independently in their communities, with support. Accessibility of community is imperative, including barrier-free housing, transportation, and public spaces, and equal access to resources and services. If any aspect of support is missing or suddenly becomes unavailable, individuals with disabilities may experience a significant loss of independence.

In order to foster successful mitigation and preparedness with persisting long-term effects, emergency managers must work in partnership with the disability community to develop disaster strategies which support equal access and independent living.  Individuals with disabilities must not only be included in preparedness and mitigation planning and programs, but their input and expertise must be valued and respected. They must be fully engaged in drills and exercises - no more actors faking disability!

Course Structure

  • Introduction
  • About the Author
    • Untitled Page 1
      • Christy Gilliland Dunaway
  • Module 1: Disability Competency
    • Module 1: Disability Competency
      • Module 1: Disability Competency
  • Lesson 1: The History of Disability Rights in the United States
    • Overview
      • Overview
    • Lives Worth Living: An Immersive Introduction to Disability History and Culture
      • Lives Worth Living: An Immersive Introduction to Disability History and Culture
  • Lesson 2: The Evolution of Emergency Management
  • Lesson 3: Assessing Access and Functional Needs
  • Lesson 4: Social Vulnerability Theory and Emergency Management
  • Lesson 5: Inclusion - The Way Forward
  • Module 1 Knowledge Assessment
  • Module 2: Responding to Emergencies
  • Lesson 6: Government Practice in Emergency Response
  • Lesson 7: Disability Rights Laws and Policy
  • Lesson 8: The Importance of Building Relationships
  • Module 2 Knowledge Assessment
  • Module 3: Supporting Disaster Recovery
  • Lesson 9: Lost Hope
  • Lesson 10: Emergency Management Role in Long Term Recovery
  • Lesson 11: Building Relationships for Successful Recovery
  • Module 3 Knowledge Assessment
  • Module 4: Equal Opportunity Mitigation and Preparedness
  • Lesson 12: Long Term Effects of Inclusion
  • Lesson 13: Including the Disability Community
  • Module 4 Knowledge Assessment


Holly Colsher
Holly Colsher
Shari Myers
Shari Myers
Christy Dunaway
Christy Dunaway
Christy was born and raised in Jackson, MS as the daughter of Pat and Linda Gilliland and sister to Lee Gilliland and Leslie McMellon. Christy was born with triple amputations, both arms below the elbow and the left leg below the knee. She is a graduate of St. Andrews High ...
Jessica Jensen
Jessica Jensen