Federal Government Improves Standards for Accessible Temporary Housing After Disasters

In the years since NCLEJ successfully sued FEMA on behalf of people with disabilities displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who were not given accessible trailers, NCLEJ has worked hard to ensure that FEMA has policies and procedures in place to meet the post-disaster temporary housing needs of people with disabilities.

In 2012 NCLEJ submitted written testimony to the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), the federal agency that develops technical accessibility standards used by federal agencies, on recently proposed technical accessibility standards for temporary transportable (i.e., post-disaster) housing that will apply to FEMA. The proposal would have replaced a requirement that FEMA group trailer sites have a minimum number of accessible housing units with a vague standard requiring FEMA to meet the accessibility needs of people with disability. We strongly opposed this standard, arguing that it was unrealistic to assume that FEMA would have all of the information it needed about households’ accessibility needs when it set up group sites, and that the result would be group sites that had no accessible temporary housing. We also testified by telephone at a public hearing on the proposed standard, and encouraged disability, Gulf Coast, and low income housing advocates to submit comments.

On May 7, 2014, the Access Board issued a final rule requiring that five percent of the units at group sites to be accessible, and at least ten percent of the “unit pads” at group sites to be able to be compatible with an accessible trailer (i.e., so that more accessible units can be added to a site relatively quickly if necessary). Federal Register, Americans With Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines; Emergency Transportable Housing Units, 79 FR 26125. Read it here.

NCLEJ is proud to have submitted comments and testified at the hearing, which influenced this positive result.