Community Access Initiative

Emergency Preparedness for Iowans with Disabilities

The Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD) coordinates the activities of the Community Access Project (CAP) for Emergency Preparedness to prepare emergency planners and service providers to address the needs of citizens with disabilities before, during and after a significant emergency event. Conducted in partnership with the Office of Disability and Health at the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), CAP also emphasizes preparing people with disabilities living in the community for an emergency through development of personal emergency preparedness plan.

At the State Level

Members of CAP staff are developing plans to roll-out new FEMA guidelines for community shelters. The guidelines provide information about what shelters must do to assure both physical and program accessibility for people with disabilities. They also recommend tools to perform functional assessment of citizens with disabilities to determine what level of support they will need during an emergency. In addition, the staff is promoting Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) training for community disability service providers. This training will help service providers prepare to continue providing their services during an emergency.

At the Community Level

CDD is piloting a model program to train and certify agency-based Access Specialists in Emergency Preparedness. Some Specialists will provide technical assistance to community emergency planners in addressing the needs of their citizens with disabilities. They will partner with state-level Specialists in emergency preparedness for people with disabilities through IDPH and the Iowa Program for Assistive Technology to address specific identified community needs. Other Specialists are being trained using a train-the-trainer model to work with groups of individuals with disabilities to assist them in developing personal emergency preparedness plans.

This model is currently being piloted in the following agency sites:

  • Three Rivers Center for Independent Living, Sioux City
  • North Iowa Vocational Center, Inc., Mason City
  • Access 2 Independence, Iowa City

For more information about this project, contact Jane Gay at or Kay DeGarmo at