Dave Hingsburger’s article “Leaving ‘the gathering place'” brings up, again, the issue of disaster planning and evacuation for people with disabilities. I’ve written about this before (here, here, here, here , here, and here, as well as about my one personal experience of evacuating in an emergency here), but all of my previous posts were some variation on “what the hell!?” without any sort of real conclusion about how to plan for evacuating or what to do when it becomes necessary.
I realize now that I have come to the same conclusion Hingsburger has in his article. Whatever my company or an organization might do to facilitate evacuation of people with disabilities is all very well and good, but I don’t believe I can count on someone else’s plan to work in an emergency. I will do my utmost to (as the airlines say) “assist in my own evacuation”—I will get into that elevator, I will crawl down those stairs, I will drag my wheelchair with me. At theaters, even though it might be more comfortable to transfer into a theater seat, I won’t if I can’t keep my wheelchair with me. At work I will not accept an office assignment above the second floor (easy for me to say—my company only has one building that’s more than two stories high). As I plan for the future, I realize that if we were downsizing I’d be very reluctant to move into a condominium or apartment building where I was dependent on the elevator working.
In this country, the gathering place is frequently called an Area of Refuge. That phrase doesn’t give me any confidence at all.