AAC and Emergency Preparation: Disasters During the Pandemic

Image of Red Cross ambulance and text, "Disaster during the pandemic"

Hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes, oh my. Emergency Preparation has usually been focused on disasters that cause people to leave their homes and seek shelter. However, “E Prep” too often leaves out people with disabilities.  Shelters may not be accessible, and may not be prepared to address the needs of people with service dogs, or assistive technology. Too often, people who use AAC may lose their equipment, not be able to charge their devices, or not be given the chance to communicate by alternate means.

Covid-19 has necessitated sheltering in place and social distancing. What happens in the case of a natural disaster? Do shelters have plans in place to maintain six feet between evacuees? What happens if hospitals become overwhelmed by two disasters at once?

People with disabilities are especially vulnerable right now. On July 22nd,  Joe Shapiro discussed disaster relief and disabilities on NPR. He centered the voices of people with disabilities who are helping their communities create inclusive response plans. To read or listen to his piece, go to this link:

Disaster Relief For The Elderly And Disabled

In June of 2020, TechOWL’s Kathryn Helland presented on AAC and Emergency Preparedness at the AAC in the Cloud conference. The recording of this session can be seen here:

AAC and Emergency Preparation

Opening slide for AAC and Emergency Preparation presentation with TechOWL logo.

Consider your own family. Do you have an evacuation plan? Have you packed your Go Bag? Does it contain hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves? Follow this link for further information on Emergency Preparation for AAC.

Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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