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Hurricane Survivors Finally Connect With Help, But Fear Lack Of Independence
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 15, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA--And two weeks after the storm passed through the U.S. Gulf Coast, thousands of survivors with disabilities are scattered across the country, mostly in the southeast part of the country.

Many are just now getting much needed medications, wheelchairs, and social security checks.

And, as Wednesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, many are housed in nursing homes -- at least for the time being until more long-term arrangements can be made.

Some who fled their accessible homes and the supports they had become accustomed to worry that it may be a long time before they will have back their independence -- if ever.

"If I have to learn my way around, I'll be disconnected from the support I'm used to getting. I'm concerned about that," said Dwayne Russ, a New Orleans resident who uses a motorized wheelchair and is staying temporarily in a Georgia nursing home.

An advocate in Atlanta helped Russ get connected with the local independent living center. Russ also connected with family in Houston, where he plans to move soon.

According to the National Council on Disability, a disproportionate percentage of those who survived Hurricane Katrina are people with disabilities whose basic needs "are compounded by chronic health conditions and functional impairments."

"Current data indicates that people with disabilities are now most at risk in this situation -- and will need recovery assistance for months or years," said NCD chairperson Lex Frieden. "Relief agencies must prioritize efforts and take special steps to address the unique and complex needs of this population."

The Council is encouraging relief organizations to pay particular attention to the needs and rights of people with disabilities.

"All too often in emergency situations the legitimate concerns of people with disabilities are overlooked or swept aside," Frieden said in a statement.

Related Hurricane Katrina stories from today's Below the Fold page:
"People With Disabilities Among Hardest Hit By Hurricane Katrina" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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