Framing matters: situating the experiences and perceptions of disaster sheltering and evacuation for people with disabilities

Brittingham, Rochelle M.
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University of Delaware
This research focuses on the experiences of people with disabilities (PWD) in disaster evacuation and sheltering. Areas of exploration include disability policies, disaster policies, and plans in the U.S. that address disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery; what households plan to do and what health and access concerns are present in a household in the event of a hurricane; and a case study of PWD in Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The first exploration uses the theories of framing and social construction to analyze four federal disaster policies and three state emergency operations plans. A qualitative textual analysis of all seven documents using focused coding determined the presence of disability frames. Analysis indicated the predominant model differed greatly in each document. Discussion includes potential ramifications and experiences for PWD and others with AFN in disasters based on different disability models and terminology applied by states in their emergency operation plans. The second exploration is a quantitative analysis of 424 completed telephone surveys of household residents in four North Carolina counties that focused specifically on respondents who indicated they, or a member of their household, had a health or access concern. Relationships with significance varied between multiple variables. Discussion is based on a number of points: analysis of survey results, where people plan to seek shelter, what these primary shelter locations mean for shelter planners, and the degree of understanding of people's rights when they seek a public shelter. Suggestions for planning strategies emerged from the data. The third exploration introduces the term situated access and discusses it within a Japanese context after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. Data were gathered by three different field visits to Iwate and Miyagi prefectures between June 2011 and August 2012. Informal and structured interviews were conducted with representatives of various organizations. Site observations were another method of data collection. Three areas emerged as creating disparate experiences for PWD: information, resources, and services. The research concludes with a discussion of the access differences PWD faced in those three areas, compared to the general population, that subsequently led to differential experiences of the disaster.