How FEMA ensures everyone can access disaster recovery centers

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 3:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Since the flooding hit, we’ve been telling affected Vermonters about the resources available through FEMA. But people with disabilities may wonder if the resources they need are there, too. FEMA says it works to ensure anyone who enters a disaster recovery center can access help.

Each recovery center is wheelchair-accessible and offers everything from spare reading glasses to an on-call American Sign Language or ASL interpreter.

It’s FEMA’s way of making sure no one gets left behind in the flood.

“It’s important for the community to have access, immediate access to programs and services that FEMA and our partners offer. But most importantly, from our perspective, is to make sure that it’s in an accessible format so that we really do reach the whole community,” said Kate McCarthy-Barnett.

At the Waterbury recovery center, visitors can use a Braille information packet, picture communication aids, hearing devices and an extra wheelchair. There are also translators available for more than 66 languages.

Laura Forbes interprets ASL over Zoom from all the way in Guam.

“Often, deaf individuals are very surprised that we have the services to provide for them because often they go in places where there is no sign language interpreter. I’m excited that we have individuals that come in, that they’re able to get the service,” Forbes said.

For those who can’t access recovery centers, FEMA is working with community outreach groups to provide transportation or bring disaster relief services to them.

“If we have one person who needs the help, then we are here for them. We have to be here for them, we want to be there for them,” said Shirley “Jann” Tracey, a FEMA media relations specialist.

Anyone with a disability or language barrier who’s struggling with flood recovery can call 211 or visit one of the disaster recovery centers across the state.