NCLEJ and Colleagues Win Settlement Requiring Accessible Trailers for Katrina Evacuees with Disabilities
On September 26, 2006, the Center and colleagues secured a favorable settlement in Brou v. FEMA, a case filed by the Center and others in February 2006 against FEMA on behalf of evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita with physical disabilities who were not provided with accessible trailers. The case was filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Although FEMA estimated that 8% of evacuees needed accessible trailers, at the time that the lawsuit was filed, only 1 to 2 % of trailers provided to evacuees were accessible. As a result, many evacuees with disabilities could not enter or exit their trailers, others could not bathe, cook, use the toilet, get in and out of bed, or engage in other activities of daily living at all, or safely and independently. As a result of the settlement, FEMA has set up special toll free numbers with trained staff for evacuees who are in need of accessible trailers, and FEMA has agreed to screen callers to determine their accessibility needs, and provide an estimated date by which FEMA will provide them with an accessible trailer or modify an existing trailer to make it accessible. The settlement also provided for FEMA to send notices to all evacuees who applied and were found eligible for temporary housing and to widely publicize the toll free numbers in media outlets in states and cities where many evacuees reside. In addition, at least 10% of the trailers purchased by FEMA for evacuees must meet federal accessibility standards. We worked on this matter with the Advocacy Center (Louisiana), Mississippi Justice Center, Public Interest Law Project (California), and Kirkland and Ellis, LLP.