People with disabilities can be heavily impacted by emergency situations so the city has created a handbook to help them prepare before disaster strikes.

The ‘Persons with Disabilities Guide’ was launched on Thursday as part of The City’s recognition for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The booklet provides information on the best way to manage an emergency and also outlines how first responders, family, friends and caregivers can help out.

“We know that persons with disabilities can be impacted more severely by an emergency or disaster more than others. A minor inconvenience to most of us, like a power outage, can be much more serious for people who rely on power for mobility or medical needs,” said Chief Tom Sampson, Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

“Marking this day, coupled with the launching of the Persons with Disabilities Guide, both serve as timely reminders of the importance of understanding disability issues,” said Katie Black, director of Community & Neighbourhood Services. “With nearly 1 in 10 Calgarians having some type of disability, we are acutely aware of the need to continue to identify new ways we can support our citizens.”

As part of the initiative, city councillor Druh Farrell and some city managers spent time in a wheelchair and took on a disability for a day to try to understand what it is like to get around the city with a disability.

“So we’re going to try a restroom in the municipal building, we’re going to try an exit through an accessible door, we're going to go down a ramp, out on to a CTrain and then back through the East Village before we end our time at a coffee at the Simmons Building, with the hopes of gaining awareness about the many challenges that men and women in our city face who are living with a disability,” said Jeff Dyer, Executive Director of Accessible Housing and Chair of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility for the City of Calgary.

“The route will go through some obstacles that people with some disabilities and accessibility issues experience every day. So it’s important that we have an understanding of the impediments that we put in front of them and it makes our city very inaccessible. We have some excellent examples of cities that have dealt with accessibility in a beautiful way, in a seamless way and I think we need to do a lot better job in Calgary.” said Farrell.

Dyer says Calgary is fairly accessible but that there are still some barriers for people with disabilities that they can improve upon.

“There’s a lot of people in our city that are excluded simply because they are in a wheelchair and we don’t see that as acceptable. No city that’s amazing in the world excludes a portion of the population so hopefully we gain some awareness today, change the way we build our cities and change the decisions that we make in our city so that they include everyone,” he said.

The Persons with Disabilities Guide also includes a personal assessment sheet and a checklist to let others know about any special needs a person with a disability might have.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency links

For more information on the Persons with Disabilities Guide, click HERE.