Appendix A: Disability Services Advisory Committee Recommendations

Per the charge from the Associate Provost, this document of recommendations was developed and approved by the Disability Services Advisory Committee (DSAC). DSAC members reviewed the current campus Emergency Response Plan and the Association on Higher Education and Disability’s (AHEAD) Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities.

Emergency response pertaining to disability issues is a fairly new, rapidly growing field. With the aftermaths of 9/11, Katrina, and the tragedy at Virginia Tech University, many universities are in the process of reviewing their procedures, keeping disability in mind. The ADA does not specifically address emergency response and evacuation for people with disabilities, but the Department of Justice and other special interest groups do provide guidelines and best practices. Our DSAC membership continues to strive for Universal Design principles to be utilized in all that we do on our campus. Our membership wants to do more than the required minimum and to proactively plan and think about disability issues. We all agreed that when thinking about emergency situations that we must abide by federal mandates and that we must follow best practices that are laid out by the Department of Justice and other special interest groups. It was agreed that emergency response is not an area to merely provide "the minimum requirements".

DSAC membership has agreed the following bullet points need to be reviewed and acted upon by the Emergency Task Force. Staff from the DBTAC-Great Plains ADA Center have reviewed this document and provided input on the following recommendations. The DBTAC-Great Plains ADA Center is authorized by the National Institute on Disability& Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide technical assistance, training and materials dissemination related to the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Great Plains Region.


  • Because the field of emergency evacuation and disability is fairly new, growing rapidly, and very specialized, experts regarding disability and emergency evacuation should be participants in the development of the Emergency Response Plan or at least review the finished plan, such as: Mr. Gary Maddox from the Southwest Center on Independent Living (886-1188), Great Plains-ADA Center (1-800-949-4232), or someone recommended by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Recommended by AHEAD were Emily Singer at Catholic University of America and Vinson Ballard at Jackson State University, Mississippi Either of them would be happy to talk about how they have implemented emergency preparation on their campuses. It is felt by the DSAC membership that the plan should be reviewed every couple of years to consider updated procedures and new best practices.
  • The DSAC membership feel that it is imperative that our ADA Compliance Officer reviews and approves the final Emergency Response Plan. The ADA Compliance Officer should also review any products purchased to make certain that they are accessible or at least the most accessible product available. The ADA Compliance Officer should utilize assistance from the above noted resources in the first bullet point in review and approval of the plan and any products purchased.
  • The Emergency Task Force and other interested parties should participate in the audio conference, produced by AHEAD, Be Prepared: Emergency Planning for All Hazards, All People, All Stages, being held on November 15, 2007. Staff from the Department of Justice will be presenting and questions may be submitted to the speaker prior to and following the audio conference.
  • Steps taken regarding the Emergency Response Plan and disability should be well documented so that an objective reviewer of the plan would not have grounds to question whether a good faith effort to comply was made. We need to demonstrate that the implemented plan was developed by means of a deliberate process and a systematic evaluation of competing alternatives.
  • Review the Access Board’s Emergency Evacuation Plan and the how they created their plan. You may contact the staff noted on the document for consultation,
  • Review ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments regarding emergency evacuation,
  • State and local government entities may follow ADAAG (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines) or UFAS (Uniform Federal Access Standards). Which set of guidelines to follow or any compliance issue should be addressed by the Office of Equity and Diversity.
  • We must have accessible signage. Egress routes and the areas of refuge should be properly marked, in compliance with Section 4.30 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities.
  • When communicating information regarding a current emergency situation to the campus community, different types of communication methods need to be utilized in order to inform everyone with differing abilities. Troy Balthazor with the Great Plains-ADA Center suggested the following:
    • Providing a centralized number to call to obtain information.
    • Posting information on an accessible web page.
    • Phone call and text message.
    • E-mail.
    • Balthazor thought that Kansas State University was in the process of reviewing options on how to use multiple means of communication when an emergency occurs. He suggested contacting Kansas State to see what they are doing.
  • Emergency response documents should use diagrams with instructions that note floor plans indicating areas of rescue and exit paths.
  • Emergency response documents should include visuals, diagrams and photographs of buildings and areas of rescue.
  • Areas of rescue and their configurations should be approved by local fire officials.
  • People with disabilities should take responsibility themselves both before and during an emergency. In individual preparation, the person with a disability should have two plans 1) a plan to include nondisabled individuals assisting them; and, 2) a plan if they are alone in an emergency situation. The book, Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities, suggests ways in which Disability Services professionals can train students with disabilities to prepare themselves for emergencies.
  • Two-way communication devices should be available in all areas of rescue and not just dependent on voice command alone.
  • All "safety zones" and areas of rescue should be approved by local fire officials.
  • The Emergency Response Plan and all information provided regarding the plan should be available in an accessible format for everyone and/or have alternative formats available. Having an accessible web page regarding this information is recommended.
  • Faculty should include an emergency evacuation statement within their syllabi. Two examples are noted: "Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Services. For procedures and information go to the following web site: and search Fire safety and Evacuation and Disabilities." Or, from Virginia Tech.: "If you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. My office location and hours are…".
  • Include disability related information in safety officers’ manuals.
  • Send a safety office mailing (email would be most accessible) to the university community.
  • Safe areas or safe rooms must be accessible and large enough to accommodate a large wheelchair, service animals, etc.
  • Do not forget others who may need accommodations; it is not just about disability. There are people with temporary issues such as pregnancy, having a broken leg, recovering from knee surgery, etc. They may need assistance as well. These are people who are not used to experiencing barriers and have not thought through what to do in an emergency situation.
  • It is important to provide training for faculty and staff regarding policy, procedures, and evacuation issues. This needs to be routine to keep policy and procedures fresh in mind and because of staff turnover. It should also be discussed in the new employee orientation.
  • Policy, procedures, and trainings need to be written in people first language (You may refer to p. 83, Appendix A, Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities). Do not use the term "handicapped".
  • Utilize free resources developed by the Department of Justice regarding disability and law enforcement issues to include free video for staff trainings,
  • Within the current Emergency Response Plan, change, "Evacuation Concerns Regarding the Physically Impaired" to "Evacuation Concerns for People with Physical Limitations" (this is people first language and covers more than just those with disabilities). In addition, this current section in the plan needs to be written to cover system wide issues. For example, it seems to be written currently for students with disabilities. We currently have students, faculty, staff and guests who have physical limitations. Please add to this section the specific guidelines for all specific disability types out of the book, Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities).
  • A person with a disability could be a student, professor, teaching assistant, etc., and the person with a disability could be the only victim or the only rescue person in a situation. We need to make certain that we do not assume that the individual with a disability is the one who needs help. Research has shown that many times, it is the person with a disability who is the individual in charge and instructing others as to what to do. We need to make certain that our procedures reflect this and that our procedures are accessible and usable for all roles that are played out in an emergency situation.
  • Review best practices, as they are developed, regarding disability and emergency evacuation every couple of years and make any necessary changes.
  • If the media are involved, be certain that they utilize People First Language. Do not use the term "handicapped".
  • In the current drafted plan, when identifying areas for demonstrations, all areas provided for demonstrations need to be accessible. Can the Bear Paw eventually be ramped?
  • If elevators cannot be utilized during a tornado, then a safe area needs to be identified on every floor.
  • Within the current plan where it discusses safety officers communicating with others, add key points from this document created by the Department of Justice regarding people who are deaf or hard of hearing,
  • Resources on Emergency Evacuation and Disaster Preparedness,, addresses the following: ADA design requirements for accessible egress, areas of rescue, evacuation elevators, alarms, signage, assistive products, etc.
  • Recommend for review, FEMA Civil Preparedness Guide, for the following reasons:
    • It includes civil rights compliance and enforcement provisions.
    • It addresses how to adapt emergency warnings and emergency public information materials for people with disabilities.
    • It includes how to adapt emergency evacuation procedures for individuals with disabilities.
  • Local fire departments should be consulted for staff training.
  • Local fire departments should assist in a pre-fire plan, building by building.
  • Recommend for review the video, Fire: Countdown to Disaster, produced by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Recommend for review the booklet, Wheeling to Fire Safety, by Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association.
  • Within the general guidelines for disabilities, also include people with learning and psychological disabilities noted in Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities, published by AHEAD.

Further Questions and Considerations

  • Need to explore the options of elevator usage in emergency situations for people with disabilities and consider when elevators may be utilized, if at all? Using elevators for persons with disabilities could be the best and safest way for evacuation for everyone involved. This is addressed within the proposed ADAAG, 207, 409.
  • Is it appropriate to use elevators during a bomb threat or not? The Great Plains-ADA Center staff suggested elevator usage in this situation.
  • Should emergency evacuation be addressed during new student orientation (SOAR) and information mailed to students again at a later date?
  • Do the minutes of the Emergency Task Force meetings or the Emergency Response Plan need to be reviewed by legal counsel? The Great Plains-ADA Center staff suggested that they should be.
  • Do we need to check with the University’s insurance carrier to determine compliance with all provisions regarding evacuation?
  • Is this a system-wide plan for all our campuses? Can this document be applied as a system-wide plan?
  • Do we want to include laboratory emergencies in the Emergency Response Plan? Adapting Emergency Procedures on Campus for Individuals with Disabilities, published by AHEAD, includes an entire chapter on this.
  • Do we want to purchase equipment such as evacuation chairs or rely on emergency personnel to evacuate people from the buildings? The Great Plains-ADA Center staff is willing to assist us in identifying appropriate equipment options to purchase.