New Website Helps People with Disabilities After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

People with communication disabilities, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Down syndrome, aphasia caused by a stroke, and some forms of cerebral palsy and autism, are the most vulnerable during and after disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In many cases, these individuals get separated from their helpers, lose access to their speech-generating devices and their low-tech tools, and get relocated to places where they are unable to receive the proper support.

The United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC), a 501©(3) non-profit established in the 1980s, has launched two websites through the San Francisco-based disaster relief portal, to help people with disabilities and their families who have been affected by Harvey and Irma.

“USSAAC’s decision to launch its two Recovers sites,” said Harvey Pressman, Co-chair of USSAAC’s Hurricane Relief Committee, “came about through the confluence of two separate events: (1) Sarah Blackstone’s earlier experiences managing an extensive and successful AAC recovery effort in Louisiana and Mississippi in the years following Hurricane Katrina and (2) her more recent experience in her own local area launching and managing a site in response to the most expensive wildfire in American history….”

Dr. Sarah Blackstone, who is one of the founders of USSAAC, and has received recognition for her relief efforts in the Soberanes fire by the Red Cross, shared that for individuals who cannot use natural speech, and have been affected by Harvey, the situation is pretty grim.

“One mom in Texas has two children and one, age 6, has autism, is non-verbal and lost an iPad and apps in Hurricane Harvey,” said Blackstone. “This mother also takes care of her grandfather who had a laryngectomy and cannot speak and is so weak he can no longer use his electrolarynx. So, two people in her household have severe communication disorders and she’s now living in a…

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