National Organization On Disability's Disaster Mobilization Initiative Will Address Post-9/11 Security Concerns


WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) announced today a $300,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for a disaster preparedness campaign on behalf of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities. The grant will fund the launching of N.O.D.'s Disaster Mobilization Initiative to address the special concerns of the nation's disability community that have been identified since the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes.

"The disastrous attacks by terrorists awakened all Americans, including the disability community, to the need to prepare in advance for emergencies. Those of us with limited mobility, vision, hearing, or other disabilities are most vulnerable in a disaster, and we now are seeking to be as prepared as we can be. This is in our interest and in the nation's interest," said N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich. "We are eager to help planners and response workers, as well as the disability community, become as ready as possible for future catastrophes-both man-made and natural." The American Red Cross estimates there are 65,000 disaster emergencies in the U.S. annually.

N.O.D. already has begun calling on the U.S. Congress, governors, mayors, disaster planning officials, and disability organizations to ensure people with disabilities are included at all levels of preparedness planning. Immediately after the terrorist attacks, N.O.D. formed a task force made up of representatives of disability groups, emergency response organizations, and major U.S. government agencies. Its report and action program were forwarded to President Bush.

N.O.D. leaders then met at the White House with Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. Ridge stated following the meeting that Americans with disabilities "have some unique and very special challenges that we have to deal with, but they also have some very unique and helpful ideas, and we want to integrate them in the process of developing a national strategy."

"The generous grant from the Mott Foundation will enable us to begin our Disaster Mobilization Initiative, in cooperation with the President and Director Ridge. Our objective is to ensure that people with disabilities are included as participants in disaster preparedness committees and planning by communities, businesses and other organizations across the country," said Reich. "Because they have experience coping with everyday life problems and are very resourceful, their input and that of their organizations will be invaluable as the nation and our communities move into a new era of emergency preparedness." The grant will fund a three-year nationwide campaign to provide disaster preparedness materials and ideas, and to promote replication of model preparedness initiatives.

N.O.D. recently released the findings of a Harris Poll, conducted in November 2001, that underscores the urgency of the Disaster Mobilization Initiative. The poll shows that people with disabilities are far more concerned for their personal safety than are those without disabilities. Eighteen percent are extremely or very anxious, compared with just eight percent of the non-disabled population. The survey also found that most people with disabilities lack plans for safe evacuation should a catastrophe occur at work or at home.

Preparedness efforts are a proven sound investment. During the attack on the World Trade Center, the majority of employees who worked below the floors where the airplanes crashed escaped before the towers fell, including at least two wheelchair users. Much credit has been given to the intense evacuation planning and emergency drills that were conducted in these buildings following the 1993 bombing there.

The National Organization on Disability, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. For more information about N.O.D.'s programs, including the Disaster Mobilization Initiative, visit www.nod.org.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. Additional information can be found at www.Mott.org.
Contact: Brewster Thackeray of the National Organization on Disability, 202-293-5960 E-mail: Thackeray(At)nod.org