The Red Cross' Impact on the Lives of People with Disabilities

Published March 1, 2023

The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that provides help to people and communities around the world through a number of means, including disaster response and relief, blood donation, and providing training and certifications related to health, safety, and emergency response. Through this work, the Red Cross has an impact on the lives of many, and the organization is dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to the assistance, resources, and opportunities the organization provides.

Providing accessible disaster preparedness information

One of the initial ways the Red Cross aims to help others is through the information and resources it provides so people can learn how to prepare themselves for disasters. In addition to striving to adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards, which makes all of its content more accessible, the Red Cross also provides resources specifically for those with disabilities.

Be Red Cross Ready is a nationwide program launched to teach people about disasters and how to both prepare for and respond to them, and the resources this program offers include information for specific circumstances and groups of people, including those with disabilities. This guide provides tips on special considerations to make while planning and preparing, and it also provides this information in alternative formats to reach a wider audience.

The Red Cross has also curated a list of accessible resources on COVID safety, which is especially important for those who may be at higher risk during the pandemic.

American Red Cross Disability Integration Initiative

One of the concerns some people with disabilities may have is whether they’ll be able to receive sufficient assistance in the case that they need to be rescued or need to evacuate to a shelter during a disaster. The American Red Cross Disability Integration (DI) Initiative aims to ensure that all people have equal access to services and resources during disasters and while staying in shelters.

Made up of volunteer subject matter experts, Red Cross DI teams work to ensure the needs of those with disabilities can be met in the case of a disaster. Teams evaluate services, resources, and facilities in their area ahead of time for accessibility, addressing any deficiencies to ensure that the right to access is respected and upheld. Plans are created to address as many situations as possible, and when a disaster does take place, volunteers work directly with people to ensure that their specific needs are met.

Community outreach

In addition to providing educational resources specifically about disaster preparedness, the Red Cross also makes a difference through community advocacy. The Los Angeles Red Cross, for example, has a Disability Community Resource Center and has held community conversations around disability etiquette and mental health.

Red Cross Singapore maintains a home for people with multiple disabilities, where care, therapy, and other forms of support and assistance are provided for residents. They also maintain an activity center that provides day services, social activities, and a range of programs designed to help develop life and various other skills.

Equal opportunities

Though Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination, the reality is that many people with disabilities still deal with discrimination in finding employment and in the workplace. The Red Cross embraces diversity among its employees and recognizes the value of having a diverse team. They also provide clear, straightforward information on how to reach out and make accessibility requests for anyone interested in career opportunities with the organization.

Many people may only think about disaster response and blood drives when they think of the Red Cross, but their values serve as a good example of the ways an organization can do inclusive work and have a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

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