How Universal Design Supports Your Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Plan

by Nov 15, 2022

Home » The Disability Inclusion Blog » Universal Design » How Universal Design Supports Your Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Plan

As a former resident of California and a current resident of Florida, I can say one thing with absolute certainty: living in a region that’s prone to natural disasters is never dull. I’ve lived most of my life with the possibility of an earthquake or a hurricane. I know many people may think of this as a stressful way to live, but it’s just about being prepared. Of course, there’s another layer of preparedness for people with disabilities.

Every year, there are about 6,800 natural disasters that occur around the world. And they affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ability, or status. That’s why facilities must be designed with universal access in mind. By following universal design standards, we can ensure everyone can access the same resources and assistance during a disaster.

When building or renovating facilities to make them safer and more efficient for people to evacuate during an emergency, there’s a lot that needs to be taken into consideration, starting with the built environment.

  • Are the exits easy to access and highlighted with contrast in color and texture?
  • Are the pathways wide enough for wheelchairs or mobility aids to maneuver around?
  • Are there visual and audible alerts to assist people with visual or auditory impairments?
  • Can the signage be quickly and easily understood in stressful circumstances? For example, are exit signs placed at both high and low levels?

Accessible emergency equipment and communication options are also vital components of a universally designed space.

  • Does it include features such as vibrating alarm systems and other audio/visual warning systems to accommodate different levels of sensory awareness?
  • Are ramps and elevators connected to backup power in case of a power outage?
  • Are phones and other devices available for people needing assistance communicating their needs?

Universal design standards can help guarantee everyone is safe during a disaster. And implementing specific practices ensures everyone has the same access to safety and security during an emergency.

Are you ready to create a space that offers universal accessibility? Reach out to my team and me. We can evaluate your situation and provide tips for designing a space that’s inclusive and accessible for all. 

Andrew D. Houghton

Andrew D. Houghton

President, Disability Inclusion Solutions

Nationally Recognized Accessibility Expert. Creating Innovative Disability Inclusion Solutions. Certified DOBE.

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