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Disability Inclusive Grantmaking is the mission of DFN: inclusion of disability in grantmaking programs and inclusion of people with disabilities in grantmaking organizations.

Hurricane Katrina and Disability: Grantmakers Urged to Respond to Needs of Hurricane Survivors with Disabilities

Disability Funders Network Offers Resources for Grantmakers

FAIRFAX, VA — Oct. 3, 2005 — Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left in their wakes thousands of victims, yet few faced as much hardship as people with disabilities — particularly those of low-income whose needs for basic necessities are compounded by chronic health conditions and functional limitations that greatly reduce their means for survival. To that end, Disability Funders Network (DFN) is providing resources for grantmakers to help them focus on the needs of the disability community.

An estimated 20 percent of the United States population has a disability1, making this the largest minority group in the nation. People with disabilities have the highest rate of poverty of any minority group in the United States. Geographically, nearly 40 percent of people reporting a disability live in the South — twice the percentage of people with disabilities in the other regions of the country.

“People with disabilities, including older adults, face a vast range of barriers to safety and survival during disasters that are often overlooked by rescue and recovery efforts,” said Jeanne Argoff, executive director of Disability Funders Network (DFN). “Our goal is to raise grantmakers’ awareness of not only the importance of including the disability community in their disaster preparedness, rescue and recovery efforts, but also to increase their understanding of the disability community’s needs following a crisis.”

Among the last to be rescued following Hurricane Katrina, people with disabilities faced difficulties in making their presence known, resulting in unnecessary deaths. Those rescued were forced to evacuate — leaving behind necessities such as life-saving medications, equipment, aids and service animals. Often, they were sent to places unable and sometimes unwilling to meet their needs.

The disability community’s needs following Katrina and Rita are far-reaching — from assistive technology such as teletypewriters, signaling devices and hearing/speech amplification devices, to durable medical products such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes and adaptive accessories. Medical supplies — including oxygen, hospital beds and transfer lifts — are also in high demand.

Conventional relief groups have not consistently demonstrated that they understand how to assist disaster survivors with disabilities.  Thirty-four nonprofit organizations are currently providing resources to people with disabilities affected by the recent natural disasters [see How to Help].

“Disability Funders Network (DFN) is instituting a ‘Rapid Response Fund’— effective October 4, 2005 — to make grants to nonprofit organizations providing direct relief to people with disabilities in the affected regions,” announced Sylvia Clark, chair of Disability Funders Network and executive director of NEC Foundation of America. And to best prepare for future crises, Disability Funders Network (DFN) has an ongoing initiative, “Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities and Older Adults: What Grantmakers Need to Know.”

Created in 1994, Disability Funders Network (DFN) is a grantmakers’ affinity group whose mission is to promote awareness, support and inclusion of people with disabilities and disability issues in grantmaking programs and organizations. Resources and information for disaster grantmakers can be found at www.disabilityfunders.org.

(1) Editor’s Note: Who are people with disabilities?

They are people with physical, sensory, mental and cognitive conditions that may or may not be visible.  A disability may be long- or short-term; may be present from birth or acquired. Disability cuts across lines of age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.  [Return to text]