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Assisting People with Disabilities

General Guidelines

The following guidelines should be considered when assisting a person with disabilities during an emergency.

  1. Assess how immediate the emergency is and communicate the nature of emergency to the person.
  2. Ask the person how he/she would like to be assisted.
  3. Evacuate mobility devices with the person if possible (ie., crutches, wheel chairs, etc)

Disability Specific Guidelines

Visual Impairments:

For persons with visual impairments, describe the nature the emergency and offer to guide him/her to the nearest emergency exit and evacuation assembly area. Have the person take your elbow and escort him/her advising of any obstacles such as stairs, narrow passageways or overhanging objects. When you have reached safety, orient the person to where he/she is and ask if further assistance is needed.

Hearing Impairments:

Communicate with the person by writing a note or through simple hand gestures about the nature of the emergency and what they should do.

Persons Using Wheelchairs:

Ask the person what methods of assistance he/she prefers. Some people have minimal ability to move and lifting them may be dangerous to their well being. Some persons using wheelchairs have respiratory complications. Remove them from smoke or fumes immediately. If the person wants to be moved in his/her chair, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Always turn the wheelchair so it is lowered down the stairs backwards (person facing up the stairs), so the occupant cannot slip forward out of the chair and down the stairs.
  • Wheelchairs have many movable and weak parts.
  • Some persons have no upper trunk or neck strength. Push the chair with the person sitting in the chair.
  • Powered wheelchairs have very heavy batteries; an evacuation chair for stairs may be needed with the powered chair to be retrieved later.
  • If a seatbelt is available, use it.

If the person needs to be removed from his/her wheelchair for an evacuation ask the following:

  • How he/she prefers to be moved from the chair.
  • If pain or harm will result from moving extremities.
  • If any equipment is needed for immediate safety of life-support.

Wheelchairs should be retrieved as soon as possible and given high priority.

Persons Using Crutches, Canes, Walkers, etc.:

Ask the person what method of assistance he/she prefers.

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