Q: Are the disabled at risk in emergency situations?
The idea of becoming disabled and applying for Social Security disability benefits is frightening.
The federal government offers two different disability benefits programs through the Social Security Administration. One is Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”) and the other is supplemental security income (“SSI”). Both programs require an applicant to satisfy the federal government definition of being “disabled”– the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or is expected to last a minimum of 12 months or result in death.
In addition to suffering from one of the government’s many approved physical or mental conditions– which include blindness and hearing loss and many others– qualifying for disability benefits also requires meeting the other criteria of the program to which you are applying.
Under the best circumstances, in which disability benefits are awarded quickly, many applicants still struggle financially because their check is only a portion of their prior income and they’ve fallen behind in their bills while waiting for benefits to kick in.
But there is another problem that many disabled people fear—it’s the stress of how to survive in an emergency situation.
Recent devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and similar disasters nationwide have put a spotlight on the problem that emergency broadcasts for disabled people whose vision or hearing are compromised are dangerously inadequate. Deaf people may not hear audible notices and blind people can’t see visual cues or flashing lights. Untrained or unqualified sign language interpreters compound the problem.
An example of this was last year in a Florida press conference on Hurricane Irma when an “unqualified interpreter” reportedly signed to area residents to “Need be bear monster” and “Toys for who Mexican” instead of properly advising them of the need to evacuate to higher ground.
Imagine the fear of not being able to access effective emergency communications and services during a disaster as a result of your disability?
A Phoenix senator recently introduced a bill to compel state and local governments “to ensure that emergency communications for people with disabilities are equally as effective as communications for those without”. The bill would also establish “a system for securing licensed interpreters”.
If you think that you might be entitled to government benefits due to a disability, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. We can handle your initial application or help you appeal a denial at any phase of the process. There is no fee to you unless you win. Contact us today for a free consultation.
From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent the disabled throughout Arizona. It is all we do.