Emergency Procedures-Assisting Persons with Disabilities


Students, staff, and faculty with disabilities are vulnerable, like all members of the campus community, to the various disasters and emergencies that might affect the UW-Madison campus. To mitigate these vulnerabilities, individuals with disabilities should take additional steps to prepare themselves. Preparing for disasters and emergencies is easy — just remember three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.







Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), UW-Madison has developed emergency planning guidelines for individuals with disabilities. It is a general requirement that emergency procedures are pre-planned and that planning should consider the needs of all occupants. It is therefore, essential to make attempts to identify the needs of disabled people and, where necessary and possible, to make proper arrangements for their assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation.



Pre-planning to evacuate or shelter in place is an essential part of emergency planning, and it is a critical issue for anyone with a disability.
Persons Using Crutches, Canes or Walkers: The type of assistance will depend on the individual's mobility and request for help. Someone should stay with the individual in the event that circumstances change, and the individual would need to move. Individuals using crutches, canes or walkers should be treated as if they were injured if they require or request assistance. If necessary have the individual sit on a sturdy chair in order to carry the individual to an area of safety.
Non-ambulatory persons: Evacuation may not be necessary or advisable depending on the circumstances. Many stairwells are designed to provide temporary protection from fire or other danger. Fire/stairwell doors should be closed for added protection. In addition, someone should stay with the person, while a second person notifies emergency responders of the location. If possible, the person should not be moved unless it becomes unsafe to remain in the location reported to emergency responders.
If immediate evacuation is necessary, the following needs to be considered:

  • Wheelchairs have movable parts; and some are not designed to withstand stress of lifting.
  • You may need to remove the chair batteries; is life support equipment connected to the batteries or part of the chair?
  • In a life threatening emergency, it may be necessary to remove an individual from the wheelchair. Lifting a person with minimal ability to move may be dangerous to the individual's well-being.
  • Wheelchairs should not be used to descend stairwells, if at all possible.
  • Non-ambulatory persons may have respiratory complications. It may be more critical to remove the individual from smoke or fumes before considering anything else.
  • Evacuation routes need to be checked for obstructions before removing the person.
  • Others not assisting with the individual should be designated to bring the wheelchair.
  • As soon as the person is in a safe location, the person should be returned to his/her wheelchair.
  • A person utilizing a wheelchair is the best person to provide advice, ask the person:
  • How many people are needed to assist
  • Whether to extend or move extremities when lifting because of pain, catheter leg bags, spasticity, braces, etc.
  • Whether to carry forward or backward on a flight of stairs
  • Whether seat cushion or pad should be brought along if the wheelchair is being left behind
  • In lieu of a wheelchair, does he/she prefer a stretcher, chair with cushion/pad, etc.
  • Is medical assistance (EMT) needed

Visually Impaired Persons
Most visually impaired persons will be familiar with their immediate work area. In an emergency situation, describe the nature of the emergency and offer to act as a sighted guide; offer your elbow and escort the person to a safe place. Remember to inform the person of any obstacles and the location you are going. Once you arrive at a safe place, orient the person and ask if there is any additional assistance needed.

Hearing Impaired Persons
Because persons with impaired hearing may not perceive an emergency alarm, another method may have to be used to inform the individual of an emergency. A written note with a brief description of the emergency and the nearest evacuation route; or gaining the attention of the individual and providing gestures are two alternatives.