Temporary Modifications for
Accessible Shelters
Photo courtesy of FEMA/Patsy Lynch
Karin Ford, MSPS, IACEM
Iowa Department of Public Health
2012 Whole Community Conference
July 18-20 Lisle, Illinois
• Understanding emergency management
and American’s with Disabilities Act-ADA
• Identifying shelter locations
• Temporary modifications
• Training shelter staff
• Identifying partnerships
Low Hanging Fruit
• Accessible disaster shelter can be
• Provides resource typing
• Creates shelter coalition
• Once established, must be maintained
ADA and Emergency Management
• Emergency management compliance
would fall under Title II
• All goods, services programs provided by
state and local government, including third
parties entities
• This includes Red Cross, faith based and
• ADA requires most integrated setting
Shelter Types-Historically
• Mass Care or general population shelters
• Special needs or medical shelters – which
are meant to house people who have type
or level of care provided by medical
personnel, nursing homes, or hospitals
• Typically people with disabilities were sent
to these types of shelters
• Accessibility was not top priority for either
Medical Shelters
• Must be staffed with doctors, nurses and
trained personnel
• Best case scenario, pre-established
transfer locations at same level of care
before disaster
• Need medical shelters so hospitals are not
Accessible general population shelters
Heating and cooling shelters/centers
Medical shelters
Pet shelters
Temporary Modifications
• ADA requires most integrated setting
• Temporary modifications for physical
• Must be readily available
Where to Begin
• Survey current sites for accessibility-follow
DOJ/ADA guidelines
• Categorize accessible to not at all
• Determine is temporary modifications can
increase accessibility
• Inventory – know what you have and what
you need
Four Main Areas
Common areas
Typical surveys begin out and work in
Start with bathroom and work out
ADA Compliant Parking
• Most states adopt ADAAG
Number of Accessible Spaces
1 to 25 – 1
26 to 50 – 2
51 to 75 – 3
76 to 100 – 4
101 to 150 – 5
151 to 200 – 6
201 to 300 – 7
301 to 400 – 8
401 to 500 – 9
501 to 1000 – 2 percent of total
1001 and over – 20 plus 1 for each 100 over 1000
Temporary Shelter Parking
Three stalls = two accessible
Use the middle as an access aisle
Accessible side walk
Close to entrance
Flat surface
Temporary Accessible Shelter
Orange Cone
• Temporary
• Blocks traffic
• Easy to move
Temporary Upright Signage
• Print and laminate
• Post on temporary
• Post high enough
• Can be temporary
• Must meet ADA specifications
– Not like the photo
• Need Handrails on both sides if
– over 6 inches high
– 72 inches long
• No ski slopes
• Exterior doors follow local fire code
• Automatic openers are recommended not
• 32 inch clear opening
• Sidewalk leading up to 36 inches
• Signage to accessible entrance
• Communication devices must have both
visual and audible signals
Common Areas
• Sleeping
• Eating
• All goods and services on one level,
unless working accessible elevator
• Signage and warning systems accessible
• Quiet room is desirable
• Path of travel
Adequate Space
• 40 square feet per person
• Generally need 80 square feet for access
and functional needs
– Medicots are higher and wider
– Service animals
• Reserve wall space – use for stability, ease
of transfer
• Near exit
• Both need to be accessible
• Toilet – can use riser to meet minimum height
of 17 – 19 inches
• Temporary grab bars, must hold up to
250 lbs
• Transfer benches for showers
• Handheld or adjust features
• Purchase insulation for sink pipes at big box
• Soap and towels on counters
Temporary Fixtures
Bathroom-Water Closet
New 2010 Guidelines
• New construction or structural remodeling
needs to follow new regulations
• Would include water closet, signs at
accessible/inaccessible entrance/exit
• 60% of entrances/exits be accessible
• 1 in every 6 accessible spaces must be
Service Animals - Dogs
• Been individually trained to do work or
perform tasks to mitigate disability
• Must be on harness, leash or tethered
unless interferes with work
• Controlled through voice or other
• Do not need to be registered or show
• Can only remove if the service animal
posses a threat or is not housebroke
• If asked to take the dog, use the leash
not the harness or they will think they
are on duty
Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt
Service Animals – Miniature Horses
• Generally 24 -34 inches from shoulders
• Weigh between 70 – 100 pounds
• Entities covered by the ADA must modify
their policies where reasonable
• Been individually trained to do work or
perform tasks
• Must be under control, housebroken
• Will not compromise safety
• Facility can accommodate the type, size, and
Service Animals in Shelters
Staff may ask two questions
• Is it required because of a disability
• What work or task has it been trained to
• Cannot ask about the person’s disability
• Cannot require medical documentation,
special identification card or training
• Or ask the dog demonstrate its ability to
perform the work or task
Training Shelter Staff
Understand the anatomy of a disaster
Incident Command
National Incident Management System
How to support people with access and
functional needs in the shelter
• Personal/family preparedness
• Donations management
• Maintain a resource list for assistive
technology, durable medical equipment,
consumable medical goods, medications
• Within the area and out
• Identify needs at intake and send to
• Partner with community providers
I Wish It Were This Easy
Take Away
• Stop planning for disability specific
• Plan using the access and functional
needs approach
• Establish partnerships with providers
• Educate each other
• Everyone has something to offer
How Am I Going To Remember All This?
• ADA Homepage has toolkits and checklists
• FNSS Guidance
• Department of Justice technical assistance
(800) 514-0301 voice
• Call me
Contact Information
Karin Ford, MSPS, IACEM
Iowa Department of Public Health
Lucas State Office Building
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50317-0075
[email protected]

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