The Independence Center presents disability access kits to local Red Cross chapter

John Monteith (left), independent contractor for The Independence Center who developed and assembled the Emergency Preparedness Kits, presents a kit to Michael Masto (right), Senior Disaster Program Manager American Red Cross of Western Colorado and Jaici Murcia (center), Division Disaster Director for Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Courtesy The Independence Center

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The Independence Center presented an Emergency Preparedness Access and Functional Needs Kit to the Colorado Red Cross headquarters last fall.

The kit contains over 45 accessibility items to assist seniors and people with disabilities with functional or access needs in an emergency evacuation shelter situation. Made possible by a grant from the Daniels Fund, The Independence Center is creating over 20 of these kits with an accompanying instruction manual. Each kit is valued at $1,300 and contains items to assist with eating/drinking, mobility, hearing/communication, low vision, service animals and facility barriers to accessibility. The kits are being distributed to Colorado Red Cross Chapters, county emergency preparedness managers and independent living centers.

“This kit of assistive devices will be invaluable when they set up an emergency shelter because these items are typically not provided, or quite frankly, even thought of,” said Pat Going, contractor for The Independence Center.

The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires brought to the forefront the need for an understanding of accessibility for persons with disabilities. When persons with disabilities are evacuated from danger zones, significant accessibility and etiquette issues arise.

John Monteith, independent contractor for The Independence Center, who created and assembled the kits, said: “Having a professional and personal perspective as an occupational therapist with a spinal cord injury, I can relate to how important these items are for helping those with access or functional needs while they are at a disaster shelter.”

The Independence Center has risen to the occasion to educate local officials and Red Cross staff with help from two grants, one from Disability-Benefit Support Contract Committee (DBSCC) and one from the Daniels Fund. The two grants worked synergistically; the DBSCC grant funded the production of a training video and The Daniels Fund grant paid for the creation of Emergency Preparedness Access and Functional Needs Kit to be given to all the Colorado Red Cross chapters.

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