Whole Community: Functional Needs Communities

I’m in Lisle, Illinois this week presenting on social media at the 2013 Whole Community Preparedness Conference, sponsored by the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Combined Statistical Area. I wanted to talk this opportunity to talk about messaging to our whole community messaging and making our messages easier to understand and receive. As the week goes on, I’ll update this post with links to the other posts.

New York City has been in the news recently, and not in a good way. A federal judge ruled that New York violated the rights of people with disabilities in their emergency response planning for not adequately accommodating their needs in a disaster. The original lawsuit was filed in response to the City’s response to Hurricane Irene, and has caused serious consternation in the disaster planning community because so much of our planning has focused on making disability-specific plans, or because so many of our plans are focused on doing the most good for most people.

This lawsuit follows a similar one filed a few years ago in Los Angeles.

I am NO expert in evacuation or shelter design, so I have no advice for your planners. But I have some background in communications, so I have a recommendation: video. I know that your first reaction is that video doesn’t sound like it would apply to all of the functional needs communities, but done correctly, it can. Take this video from the Deaf Hearing Communication Centre as an example:

This video adequately provides critical life-saving information for the deaf and visually impaired communities. Can you imagine if the video was captioned to allow for non-auditory presentation? Or what about captioned in Spanish to help Spanish-speakers?

Videos, because of their ability to convey visual and auditory information are perfect for reaching multiple audiences for one outlay. We’ve talked about, and demonstrated with some of my video posts, how easily it is to create videos. But what about the captioning? It turns out that’s pretty easy, too. Here are instructions for adding captions to YouTube videos.

Since we really should stop planning for “regular” communities and “special” communities and start planning for the whole community, and since our funding is continually getting cut, we need to figure out ways to streamline our efforts while addressing everyone’s concerns and needs. Videos like those from DHCC are pointing in the right direction and will hopefully become a standard tool in the communicators toolbox.

Whole Community #1: The New Digital Divide
Whole Community #2: Approachability