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

Lesson 1: The History of Disability Rights in the United States


 Nothing About Us Without Us

We begin Lesson 1 with the motto, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” This rallying cry has been used frequently by individuals with disabilities throughout the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements, as a mantra to their belief that society, agencies and organizations should not be planning anything on behalf of people with disabilities without their participation. People with disabilities know and understand their needs better than someone who has not experienced disability. They are subject matter experts, and should be engaged as such throughout each phase of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The most important objective of this first lesson is the immediate introduction of the knowledge that individuals with disabilities should be, and most often are, in control of their own destiny. The disability community is historically comprised of strong and empowered individuals who have been successful in promoting and ensuring their civil rights. As a result, the community will no longer accept anything less than full inclusion, with equal physical, programmatic, and effective communications access.

We’ll explore the history and philosophy of disability in this country from the perspective of the disability community, as well as the Disability Rights Movement (DRM). We’ll compare and contrast the Individual Rights Model of disability with the historically used, but inaccurate and inequitable Medical Model. We’ll learn the significance of the philosophy of Independent Living in the history of the movement, and review the civil rights laws borne out of it, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act and more.

By the end of this lesson, students should begin to consider emergency management from the perspective of individuals with disabilities.

Learning Objectives

Gain familiarity with the Philosophy of Independent Living and the concepts of self- empowerment and self-determination

Value of individual rights model vs. medical model approach to emergency management

Cite key dates in the Independent Living Movement

Summarize civil rights laws providing protection to individuals with disabilities