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’Ready to Roll’ Initiative to Improve Disaster Preparedness for Wheelchair Users

October 27, 2020
Source: United Spinal Association

United Spinal has announced the launch of a comprehensive disaster preparedness initiative for individuals with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) designed to lessen the effects and risks associated with natural or human-caused disasters.

The initiative, titled “Ready to Roll” will address the significant challenges wheelchair users and other individuals living with disabilities face when disasters strike.

“Our goal is to help preserve the health and safety of individuals with disabilities in times of uncertainty and upheaval due to disasters through advanced planning, along with the preparation of professionals and local agencies,” said Abby Ross, United Spinal’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Being equipped both intellectually and physically for unexpected events can save lives, lessen the emotional impact and facilitate a quicker adjustment in times of transition,” added Ross.

The Ready to Roll initiative will address:

  • planning for emergency evacuation
  • preparing for power outages
  • ensuring the safety of pets and service animals
  • safeguarding critical mobility equipment and supplies
  • accessing local resources

Through engagement with its membership base severely impacted by storms in recent years, United Spinal discovered that many individuals with SCI/D lack access to resources and supports that address their safety while preparing for and recovering from natural disasters and other emergencies.

The most critical need exists among those who use motorized wheelchairs, medical equipment and supplies, ventilators, and other powered devices. These individuals may experience life-threatening situations when electrical power is not available or when homes are damaged in ways that prevent the use of the devices they require for health, safety, and security.

United Spinal has also found that few local agencies and community-based organizations fully understand the needs and challenges faced by persons with SCI/D during disasters.

As part of this initiative, United Spinal will work closely with its chapter leaders and professionals within the SCI/D community, including device manufacturers, psychiatrists, physical and occupational therapists, to increase awareness on emergency preparedness best practices and procedures.

Coordination with local emergency response agencies will ensure wheelchair users are included in all aspects of community preparedness and response.

Print and digital resources will be made available for individuals with SCI/D, their families and caregivers, such as personal assessments; checklists; information pages; and how-to guides that will equip individuals with recommendations on how to prepare themselves, their homes and equipment for disastrous circumstances.

In the coming months, the organization is planning to distribute disaster readiness starter kits with items such as first aid kits, flashlights that easily attach to wheelchairs, wet wipes, garbage bags, and emergency blankets. Waterproof tags will be provided for each user to personalize with information on their equipment and needs in case of emergency.

For more information on United Spinal’s Ready to Roll initiative, visit

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