Interview Transcript featuring Jim House

Linda Crerar: Welcome. And good afternoon. My name is Linda Crerar and I am the Director for the Washington State Center of Excellence for Homeland Security Emergency Management and our Center serves as a lead for all of our all-hazard emergency management programs. And in the coalition of all our 34 community and technical colleges in the state with over 500,000 students. The Center serves as a clearinghouse, but it also helps all of our all-hazard emergency management programs to prepare a skilled workforce to maintain our national security and effectively respond to all-hazard events in our communities in order to keep our communities resilient. I am very fortunate to be here today with members of the Coalition for Inclusive Planning and to be specifically talking with the Disability Integration Manager of the Coalition, Jim House. I want to welcome Jim, and also Kim Conner to the discussion today about the coalition and about the role and activities that the Coalition is doing. Jim is, as I said, the Emergency Planning Disability Integration Manager working with the Coalition. Jim, if you would like to share a little bit about how you became the Coalition manager and maybe share a little bit about the Coalition.

Jim House: Sure. Before I joined this job three years ago, I was an advocate in Seattle under the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center and I was required to work within some of the systems as an advocate as opportunities showed up regarding disability advocacy groups in the Seattle/King County areas and that was where people with disabilities would have advocacy and then emergency services would come together and make sure that there was access and function as needed. And it was important to show that people with disabilities could be at the table and discuss their functional needs together with other entities. My current job that I have right now, opened up under the Washington State Independent Living Council(WASILC), and I interviewed and was selected to join the council and have been working ever since developing partnerships within the emergency management systems across the state and disability advocacy in the communities. And this has grown over the three years and we currently have experience with- we had a fire last year, we’ve had COVID. We’ve had two disasters that we’ve worked with and we’ve been faced with some challenging times in providing access for individuals, and seeing where we have gaps that we need to fill in for access.

Linda Crerar: Jim, can you share with us a little bit about the Coalition of membership of the Coalition?

Jim House: Yes. The Coalition meets every two weeks through Zoom. Before it was every three months, we would come together in person in our office in the Lacey area. But since COVID, we are working from home, so we’ve changed our platform and we’re working through video for the meetings. In the Coalition we have different advocates from the community at the local level, such as Seattle King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County. At the Centers of Eastern Washington, we work together, networking at the different Centers for Independent Living, which we have 4 in Washington State. And so through our Coalition, we’ve been able to respond quickly when the need arises. The American Red Cross has shared with us that we’ve had one person who had lost a walker in a fire. We were able to network through contacts at the independent living communities and they jumped up and were able to respond quickly to meet the needs and get a replacement walker for this individual. We’ve also been able to help a few people with housing. It was a busy time last year in September particularly. The Coalition also has individuals from DOH, Department of Health in Washington State, and they also offer funding for the program that’s been ongoing for almost six years. We also have a good partnership with the Emergency Management Division. That has been an ongoing partnership with other- that we’ve seen other laws in 2017 passed where the government has responded and ordered the emergency management system to be inclusive for all peoples who speak other languages as well. So that they are getting the emergency messages to them as well and the background in that area. In the past, we had a bad fire year in Eastern Washington. There were a lot of individuals who didn’t speak English as a first language. We had a lot of migrant workers who spoke Spanish and the announcements were all in spoken English and it wasn’t given access to them in their language. And so there was a law written. That was a huge program to meet the needs of individuals of different varying languages so that they were accessing the emergency systems messages in their languages and giving them the opportunity to participate. Sign language as well. Meeting the needs of people that use sign language and adding ASL. So we’ve been working together. That’s where we are at right now, we’re involved with ensuring that the EFS6 is putting forth effort so that if there’s individuals who have disabilities, they can come to us so that they can have their needs met to what that may look like; specifically around communication and texting 911. So it’s a very broad area that we’ve been working on him. Kim, did you want to add?

Kim Conner: Sure. Thank you, Jim. This is Kim Conner. I’m the Executive Director of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC). Just a little historical perspective to add to this conversation is about six years ago, the Washington State Independent Living council (WASILC), along with the Centers for Independent Living and Disability Advocates came together and did an emergency management emergency planning conference in Yakima. One of the big things out of that conference came the development of the Coalition of Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP) and the Department of Health saw the real need in supporting the statewide efforts to make sure that the voices of people with disabilities were there in the planning in the response and the recovery when and if a disaster happened in the state of Washington. So they started funding this program, which became a program of WASILC five years ago, we’re going into our sixth year. The beauty of this network is not only for the disability organization and disability advocates to sit at the table and talk about what their needs are gaps are during a disaster or during planning or during recovery, but it also allows emergency managers to be at the table as well. And to learn from the disability community what those needs are, what those barriers are, what those access and functional needs, is what we refer to, are. So they go back into their communities and when they’re writing their plans, think about the disability community and how to better plan for the community. And then when we are in a disaster like we are now, with the COVID, that emergency managers both, local and state, the state emergency management department, can come to us as a disability voice, a disability network and ask us what the needs of our community are. And that has been very successful working with the Department of Health, DOH, when they started to develop COVID testing sites. They came to us and were very instrumental in providing feedback on how to make accessible sites for all disabilities, whether it’s mobile disabilities, hearing, vision, neuro divergent disabilities, whatever those disabilities are, how can we make these sites better accessible to folks? So then when we moved to getting vaccines we were also able to provide that technical assistance as well. The network as a whole, but Jim as the manager has those relationships with everybody so he can bring in the subject matter experts on maybe on a particular disability because disability community is very diverse in disabilities and the needs of the people with disabilities and the solutions for the people with disabilities.

Linda Crerar: So one of the things that I do want you to share and the concepts and talk about is inclusive emergency preparedness and what does that mean? And Jim, if you and Kim can share the key concepts around inclusive emergency preparedness? I think this is the concept around whole community, but I really think it needs to be in your words and your thoughts.

Jim House: I want to emphasize, and we continue to emphasize as we have conversations in relationship to emergency management and those who are out there making the plans and working with us and sitting at the table. We have conversations and we constantly give examples of our experience and others experiences in what we’ve seen, and what I’ve seen growing up, and others have seen in their lifetime with varying disabilities. And we talk about our experiences, I share my experience, and others with other disabilities, we bring them in as well so that we have as many voices as possible that can share their messages. And many of them are common messages that we share together. In the past, there was planning that was going on for individuals, but it just wasn’t effective. Didn’t take in to consideration our voice at the table. And so that has been changed now since Katrina. There’s been recognition that there was a lot of gaps that happened during that incident and so now they’re incorporating individual’s needs.

Kim Conner: This is Kim. So, some of that could be in the planning. Some examples are for tsunami warnings. They have the towers that, if there’s a tsunami warning, the towers will have this loud noise or bell. I’m not quite sure what it’s called. It’s not a bell, but it’s very a loud horn. If you are deaf or deaf and hard of hearing in those communities, you won’t hear them. When that came to light and deaf and hard of hearing people were able to communicate to emergency managers that it didn’t meet that need, then they started retrofitting I think, the towers with lights so lights will go off so that you have that visual, right? But visual alone wouldn’t work because people that are blind or low vision wouldn’t see the lights, but they might hear the horn that goes off, so that would be an example. I know Jim, has an example as well and effective communication for the deaf and hard of hearing community, Jim maybe you want to talk about some of the strides that we have made in that area as well.

Jim House: Sure Kim. Pierce and then recently, there’s been some upgrades that are called Outdoor Warning Systems. Pierce and Puyallup are using similar warning systems that are lahar- a lahar that are coming from Mount Rainier, so if there is, let’s say the volcano erupts and people need to evacuate quickly and they need to get out of the area maybe because of rising waters or because maybe, if there’s a tornado coming and there needs to be alert that happens quickly, they can do that if there’s not an advanced warning. Pierce has set up lights, but when I went to visit during a blue sky when it’s a nice day out and they’ve got the lights that are up quite high and then there’s a flash that goes on with it, It’s difficult to see for people because of how high it is so people are in different situations would not be able to be alerted at that time, so we would like to have several lights that are installed at eye level so that several lights are going off at the same time and can be seen and a better warning given. Also, people in every emergency system needs to be able to be accommodated for all of the disabilities that we have out there and some of it, technology has not been developed yet. So for varying reasons, we would like to see backup plans so we have a redundant system that will notify individuals through a pager or a message would be sent and the pager would vibrate. If somebody doesn’t have a pager, then we would have to make plans; a backup plan for how we’re going to notify those who don’t have pagers if a disaster occurred. After doing an action report related with the lights and how they’re set up, we’re finding that the baseline needs a little bit more work to accommodate people and their needs. So talking about our response to COVID where we looked at accessibility to online and affordability for internet and computers in different locations. Some places, people have to drive to a hotspot to get connected. Some students have to go into hotspots to be able to, you know, do their schoolwork. Others are doing it on their phone. And so Internet has been a challenge. And it would help a lot with being able to communicate to the internet when people need to.

Linda Crerar: One of the things that from just my most recent work and exposure with the Coalition is the importance of all of our emergency management public agencies and others that are involved in preparation and disaster response. How important is it for, for them to include in that inclusive emergency preparedness? Your expertise of all of your coalition members and others, but how important is it to have people that are on staff and actually working in emergency management to be part of preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies?

Jim House: CIEP is just a small piece of a large puzzle. We’re here to help and make connections to individuals and in the future, what we would like to see, is the AFN, accessibility and functional needs, specialists to be in every county because we know disasters happen, typically they’re localized. It will start in a local area in a town or in a county. The first professionals that respond are there at that local area, but the first response could be, you know, the neighbor. Could be an individual that’s right there that gets there first. In a towny or in a county. And if the disaster spreads beyond that and accumulates, it could become overwhelming. And so they can call in help from their region. People around that community that can come and respond. If it spreads from there, they can call in help from the state level and then the government would have the option to call the President of the United States if more help is needed, if FEMA needs to be brought in. So people have to think about accessibility. If FEMA arrives, you know, this is great. We’ve got the support, but sometimes it doesn’t come to every disaster unless the President approves it, which means accessibility and functional needs must be begin at the local level. We don’t want to wait for the state to become involved before we provide accommodations for individuals at the local level and there are a lot of gaps that we’re seeing now. You know, and then we have to wait to the state becomes involved so we wanted to start actually immediately at the local level at the city of the county, so that they have their own AFN specialists who are able to reach out throughout their area so that they have disability networking that’s happening immediately at that local level.

Kim Conner: This is Kim. I would also add that until we can embed access and functional needs specialists, AFN specialists, into local, and quite frankly, the first step is probably to have someone embedded at the state level at the emergency management department level to have someone in there to really be that voice, that disability voice and be connected to the coalition’s network because not one person has all the answers or all the knowledge, right? It takes a group of subject matter experts in different areas to be able to inform plans and how things happen, and protocols and how you address the disability community during disasters and a local, regional or state level. So one of the things that can happen now is a lot of some communities have what they call Disability Action Groups or DAGs. The CIEP is actually, the coalition is actually a statewide DAG, Disability Action Group, because it brings together the disability community and their partners. So to have a disability Action Group, locally in your community that you can work along with and gain expertise as an emergency manager to understanding the disability community and to also incorporate those ideas and those needs within your plans; within your local plans to help you, because we know that we know emergency managers departments are typically underfunded and need more capacity. And sometimes it’s overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the disability community and the needs of the disability community to effectively plan for them. So that’s why it’s good to ask folks to come to the table, whether it’s having reaching out to Jim and asking for technical assistance on a draft of your plan. He can always review the plan and give you ideas of where you can make some changes to be more inclusive of the disability community in your, in your local plans that you write, I think every three years. I think that that is one way. One way is to reach out to you or mobile Disability Action Group, or develop a local Disability Action Group. Which again, Jim has provided technical assistance in smaller rural communities and helping people develop DAGs in their area. So it’s about that partnership and how the different expertise’s of the network, the coalition. And as we always say in in the disability community too, we’re not experts on every disability, so we rely on each other and each other’s knowledge to help us.

Jim House: Let me give you an example. In our current response to the vaccination rollout and procedures, we’ve appreciated the fact that DOH has listened to us and taken our recommendations for the vaccination sites and we’ve come to the table and discussed. What about, you know, providing interpreters at these sites? Or support at these different vaccination sites? But, what about individuals who aren’t able to even leave their homes? How are they getting vaccinated? Maybe they’ve got, you know, they’re on oxygen or other machines that are not portable? Individuals who have disabilities maybe they’re not able to stand in those long lines and wait for their turn for a vaccine. Individuals that may not be able to be mobile and get to those sites, how are we working with those? And then also, for people who may not have transportation to get to those sites. You know, you’ve told me where to go, but what if there’s no transportation? What if they’re deaf/blind and they have to arrange transportation to get there and they have to have an SSP, support person who goes with them and accommodations when they call to make those appointments or they go online to the website? Often, you can only make an appointment for yourself and you answer the questions, but you have others who want to attend. Maybe you have a spouse or you have an SSP, who is a support person who attends with you. You want to be able to take advantage of the vaccine if you’re qualified, but you have some other barriers. Maybe you find out that your appointments at two o’clock, but you’re not allowed to bring someone with you, you know, and then it doesn’t happen at two, but it gets postponed to four o’clock, so you have to make sure that the book that both of us can attend the appointment at the same time if it does get postponed and often there are barriers that we have to take into consideration so that these can be effective when we’re reaching out to the community and scheduling those appointments.

Linda Crerar: What is it that we need people themselves to also be thinking about as far as making sure that they are addressing their own preparedness and also outreaching to those others, but, kind of what are the things that people need to be thinking about their own preparedness and what do you want them to be looking for and asking for?

Jim House: What we need to understand: the first 72 hours after any disaster, let’s say it’s an earthquake or a fire, it can be any catastrophic event where people need to know exactly what’s happening, where the damage is, what roads are open; they need to be able to assess that information before somebody can come in, before the EMD can come in. And so the recommendation is to have preparedness for up to two weeks. That means that you’re able to put aside food and water and different needs, maybe medicine, so that you can sustain your own, being in your own place for two weeks until they can get to you or until you can be evacuated. You could have a backpack that will hold the things that you need, that will hold enough for three days. If you are away from your home, so that would be if you’re mobile. There is a lot of information out there if you look at the website ( and I’ll share some of those resources with you as well. Have a plan developed. If there’s an emergency and you have to evacuate, where will you go? Do you have a friend that you can plan to stay with? Do you need a shelter to go to? Do you have all your needs met, and what are those needs? What’s your communication plan? How will you receive information? How you receive alerts? If you don’t have a mobile phone, what are you going to depend on? How are you going to contact your family to let them know that you’re safe, or that you may need help? And to be able to take things with you, equipment that you may have, maybe you have a walker. Maybe you have assistive technology that you need for communication. How portable is that? There are a lot there’s a lot of information that you need to take into consideration when you’re preparing in advance. My suggestion is to join the emergency response team. They have teams out there that you can be involved around Washington State where you’re able to go and participate and learn. They offer trainings if there’s basic emergencies that happen and that will help you get to know your neighbors. If you see something, you know, you see an emergency, there’s a car accident, you can be better prepared to provide support. And keep in mind that if you have a strategy that’s going to help you in the moment and will minimize the injury and will maximize lifesaving events for individuals, especially if you have to be prepared for several days out, not being able to receive resources.

Kim Conner: This is Kim. One of the areas that you can also, or one of the resources that you can do is you can visit our website ( We have a page for the coalition that has resources on it on individual preparedness as well as other information that you can access. Also, our Centers for Independent Living provide information around how to prepare as an individual with a disability for disaster. And they have checklists that have things on it, to think about might not pertain to you, but may. One of the issues in the disability community, which is a concern is people that have that are on medications that they need to take. They can only purchase so many of those medications in advance, so they’re not always able to stockpile medications and one of the strategies is to stockpile your medications, but always kind of use them so they don’t go out of date. So you’re always kind of checking on those medications, but there are some medications that you can’t do that with that become problematic after and can be life threatening. So that is an area we haven’t resolved yet around, but is there. And then if you have equipment that requires electricity and electricity is out. Backup batteries. And also, one of the things that we don’t talk about a lot, are our communities that don’t have a lot of resources that are low income are poor and the disability community is impacted through economics at a higher rate than other communities just like some other marginalized communities. So some of these kits that we’re talking about putting together, some people can’t just go out and compare them. Some people, it takes months to prepare kits. Some people don’t ever have three days’ worth of food in their home. So it’s around kind of thinking that through and planning that and seeing how they can access and then sometimes it takes time. So that’s another thing that we don’t talk about very much, but we know is real for a lot of people in the disability community and especially if you start talking about the intersectionality between disability and our communities of color. That might even be marginalized at a higher rate. So it’s something that we, we need to start talking about in the least recognize that it’s there and it will become an issue if we’re, if we have a severe disaster like an earthquake, which we planned for here in our community, or volcano which apparently happens in our communities as well up here in the Northwest.

Linda Crerar: So that leads into for me and also for you to talk about who is it that benefits from accessibility mean you’ve mentioned it already, but who benefits?

Jim House: This is Jim. When you think about accessibility, we think about, you know, being able to get over the hurdles. For instance, if you have mobility issues, being able to get over the curve for accessibility. And so when you think about who’s using that right now, we all are; for riding bikes, mothers with infants have to get over a curb with wheelchairs, you know, these are barriers. And so that’s one of the big changes that we need to look at for Americans with Disability Act and for people with disability. Another barrier is having captions. Creating the technology so that deaf people, where in the past, the 1980s, they didn’t have access to it, but we’ve come a long way. And people are learning English. We have people who are migrating from other countries, not just for disabilities, but just English is not their first language. There are areas where, you know, people don’t have access to TV where they choose not to have TV. Maybe for noise reasons or other reasons, how can they get access, so that they can have that information? You know, a few days ago there was a legislative push for SB 5027 that will require captions being shown in public areas where TVs are on public businesses and that’s been an increase access for individuals if an emergency happens and they’re in a public area, if they are outside of their homes. So that has passed, but we’re just waiting for it to be signed into law. Some centers that are designed, for example where there’s telephones. How do individuals who are blind, be able to place calls to know where those phones are? To be able to have five buttons and then, the middle have, you know, the ability to feel and sense and know how to place that call independently? And that will help them to be able to place calls. Not only for them, but if there’s a blackout in an emergency, text to 911. Designing technology for deaf; for people who are speech disabled, for them to be able to call 911 and gain help. Help for other people who are trapped in situations where there might be domestic violence, there might be an active shooter, you know, somebody who may have a stroke and they’re not able to speak. This technology will allow individuals to call 911 without voice usage. And so they’re working on designing that technology right now for individuals with disabilities that will have multiple benefits for people in other situations where they may not be able to use their voice based on the emergency.

Kim Conner: This is Kim, I think, Jim you’re absolutely right. Some great examples that you gave where a certain disability did some advocacy and did enough advocacy where they brought something forward, like text to 911. That came out of the deaf and hard of hearing community where they really were strong advocates in saying that they were not getting their needs met and it was not being accessible, and then when they put that in place, as Jim pointed out, it helps so many other people, including the general population or what we call the “able-bodied” population. So, it is helping the domestic violence or the stroke victim or whomever is not being able to speak at the moment. And we find that a lot in the disability community as he was talking about curb cuts, you know. That is an accessibility issue and people had to sue the city of Seattle to get curb cuts and then what we saw was how it made life easier for able-bodied people. Parents with children in strollers and people that were, temporary disabilities, were using a cane, were using a walker or even a wheelchair user, but so it really actually enhanced the life of the able bodied community. And we find this time and time again, when strong advocates change laws or the way that communities look or behave, that it actually enhances the whole entire community in some form or another.

Jim House: Kim, you had mentioned individuals who are able-bodied, and I’d like to add to that. People who are temporarily able-bodied because you can become a person with a disability through a car accident, through an illness. It was something, you temporarily break your leg and now you’re dependent on a wheelchair. A lot of people don’t think, you know, what that frame of mind that, you know, I could be a part of that community. Do I have the skills? Do I have access? What are my needs and are those needs designed to meet everyone’s situation, including my temporary situation?

Linda Crerar: That is a very, very good point that you make and that is that accessibility is really affects and benefits everyone.

Jim House: True. It applies to the emergency planning, as well because before when you thought about it, did we plan for everybody? We really plan for 80% of the community, it wasn’t 100% inclusion. And so people who have disabilities all need to have access to communication. Access to the community, specifically areas that we need to focus on: effective communication access is one, physical access is another, and program access. For example, effective communication can mean that we are able to have an exchange of information without barriers. That we are able to understand. We are able to also respond to that information appropriately. There are programs that we can access based on, you know, the location. Some areas don’t accept service animals. The Americans with Disability Act is saying “yes, you need to change your programs, so that you do except service animals.” Physical access: let’s talk about parking lots where the lots, the spaces are very small. Restrooms where the restrooms are too narrow for individuals who use mobility aids where people are able to get around and move without barriers. These are areas that we need to focus on and ensure. Also, if there are barriers, how are we going to break down that for people who have functional needs, such as people who have communication language needs? Also, Kim mentioned medicine, how are they going to get the medicine that they need? If there’s, you know, emergency and they need that medicine to last in a disaster where, maybe they’re cut off from being able to get a refill on that medicine? People who live independently, being able to live where they want and communities that they want and be able to access government programs or even private programs without having barriers that prevent them from having that access. Being able to be safe and secure and make judgment based on that need of safety and the right to decide whether you want to move and live and transportation. A lot of people don’t own vehicles. Maybe they’re on vacation, maybe some people are using buses for transportation and something happens and, you know, the freeway access is closed down. They don’t have that option or they can’t use the bicycle because they can’t get through and so you have to think about outside people, who need that access that they need that to be able to function and the larger population and not be limited are labeled by their disability.

Linda Crerar: So Jim, will you talk a bit about accessible CERT program and what that is and how people can access that?

Jim House: Sure. Like I had mentioned before, there are several programs throughout the community in Washington State, but one that I’ll choose to talk about is offered by Redmond. The director there is Pattijean Hooper and she developed the CERT program training that is very similar in curriculum to other programs called access LENS, lens. It’s training the eye for accessibility where there are gaps and to ensure best practices.  I went and I was able to take the course and I got to see how they worked with varying disabilities, people are blind, people are in wheelchairs, people who had barriers to communication. It was quite diverse and we all were able to pass the test that day. It was a three day program, three day training, and everyone who attended passed. And then I took a training for CERT and they taught how to teach the concept to other individuals and they offered accessibility to CERT training in Olympia. We did that two years or three years ago and we provided that training in American Sign Language for individuals who are deaf, for employees and citizens. And we had a blind woman who also was there that could interact. And it was a good experience and I encourage anyone, if you have that opportunity, to sign up for the CERT program and spread the word to others so that we have more functional and needs for individuals who need access across the state.

Linda Crerar: Thank you, Jim. Is there any other thing, we’ve talked about a lot in there, and we’re going to have information in our newsmagazine, Confluence that’ll have resources and, of course, we’ve talked about the resources that are on your website and we’ll make sure that everyone, we have that as well as part of this interview and story, but is there anything other important that we have not talked about yet, and I know that you had mentioned a little bit about the Independent Living philosophy and why that’s important.

Jim House: Yes, I think, more focus on the individual who has the disability who wants to live independently. And not to confuse that with service provider houses or housing, but the individual who has the desire to live independently and has that right to make that decision on their own. They wanted to go to college; they’re able to go to college without barriers and to work to remove those barriers so they have accessibility. To respect their decision and ability to make that decision where they live. There’s a movement that started in 1964. Kim may be able to speak to this based on historic history, Kim, for independent living. It started at the Berkeley University of California, where a man by the name of Ed was a student and VR told him, no he couldn’t go to college because he had an iron lung and so, there were many barriers. He fought for years and from that, we saw transition and movement towards people having the ability to live independently. And there were 500 centers that were set up across the United States to support independent living. Kim, can you touch on that history?

Kim Conner: Sure. Thanks, Jim. Yes, Jim’s right. Ed Roberts is one of the founding members of the independent living movement or the Independent Living philosophy that came out of the disability civil rights movement in Berkeley in the 60s on the heels of the civil rights movement that was happening at the same time and in the same area. Ed Roberts did fight Berkeley and actually became the dean of the school that he was fighting to get into eventually, and was there for a very long time. And out of that movement came the Independent Living philosophy, which is self determination to live the life that you want to live with the services and supports that you want in the community you want, and making the choices for yourself, self-determination. And out of that, in the Rehabilitation Act, they developed the Centers for Independent Living and the state independent living Council which I, which we work for. So we have that network throughout the country. It’s also really good that movement was that movie came out of civil disobedience. There were marches and other disobedience, civil disobedience actions that took place at the birth of the disability civil rights movement, so it’s a pretty fascinating historical and cultural movement and there were a lot of key players and Roberts is only one of many who were part of that movement and so that’s where this comes out of. Of that access and the ability to live in the communities without barriers.

Jim House: During –

Linda Crerar: Oh, go ahead.

Jim House: Congress they talked about the Americans with Disability Act and that led to several changes. Gallaudet University, College for the deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Washington DC, never had a president until 1988 when students; they had another president who was brought on who was hearing, did not know sign language, didn’t understand deaf culture or history and the students rose up and protested for a week and the Board of Trustees recognized the need to change and bring on a deaf leadership for the students. Also, individuals with other disabilities marched at the US Capitol forcing for change. People got out of their wheelchairs and they crawled across the concrete cement because they did not have access in the past. And that was an important moment in history that led to the change and what we currently have, the advocacy for individuals. And we saw that play out in history. We still have a long ways to go but, we have to appreciate our past and the programs that have been founded on what that past and people marching led to, and the student involvement. Because over time we’ve seen change and for the emergency planning, we’ve also seen change by implementing some of these ideas that others have shared.

Linda Crerar: Jim and Kim. This is a very important, important. These are concepts and things that we have dealt with for decades and as you say, there are still gaps and needs that exist. And, is there anything, and we’ve shared and we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last hour, but is there anything that we need to mention and/or highlight that you want to make sure that we include in this discussion that we’ve not talked about?

Kim Conner: I would want to say that I would invite you, at whatever level of information or knowledge or understanding of the disability community; I would invite you to come and have a conversation with us. I would invite you to reach out because we want to partner with you. We know it’s scary. We know it’s hard. We know it can be overwhelming. And we know that we need to work together to move through it. So, I would just say that we are open to that and we want to create a place where, where you can ask the questions, and where you feel safe, maybe asking the stupid question right? And we always hear there are no stupid questions and we truly believe that and we want to be able to inform and to educate. So we hope that we’re creating an avenue that is open for you to come and have that conversation with us because it benefits not only us, but it benefits the greater community and we’re passionate and we’re committed to it and want to see things get better. And we know it’s incremental and we’ll take the huge wins and we’ll take the small wins too. And the small wins can be having that open conversation because we know it will be for the betterment for everyone.

Linda Crerar: Jim, your thoughts?

Jim House: The steps that we’re taking and have taken through history have led to a lot of things. For example, I wrote a book, and a part of the book shows accessibility to 911. It first came out, this is the book here that I’m holding up. It really is much broader, but it talks about accessibility to communication, or, excuse me, information more and communication technology. Some is in regards to emergencies. When 911 first came out, it was not accessible to us and they tried to transition to an E-911 to teach us to pick up a phone and dial at the handset that and then set it down, because that open the line to the 911 centers and it would display our address immediately. But there was no communication that happened and how would we share this situation and what we needed help with so that we could receive the correct resources? Then the ADA was passed that mandated TT-wise, which we know are old machines, old technology, that would require turn-taking for communication. And we saw a big shift when the internet came along and we had wireless access, which started to remove some of the barriers, except they didn’t address all the barriers. We had to go back then have laws looked at again and changed that broke down some of the barriers that were created in the shift. And now we have text to 911, which sends a digital access to the emergency service centers, and so throughout history, we’ve seen a lot of shifts, a lot of changes that I’ve lived through. You know, I couldn’t watch TV when I was younger, we didn’t have access to captioning where now we can see the shift where barriers are being broken down, and it really has been a journey as we look at it and we’re not there yet. You know, it’s been a process, some of it fun, some of the difficult, some of the changes that we’ve had over the years, but we still have some ways to go.

Linda Crerar: Well, thank you both, Kim and Jim and Jeanie, also for interpreting. What I want to also leave with all of us is that preparedness and emergency and disaster preparedness is inclusive of all people and all peoples and all abilities. There isn’t disabled or abled, it’s all abilities have to be included, all people have to be included and I think that’s one of the messages for me that has come through loud and clear. Kim and Jim, with what you’re saying is that it’s a two way street. We all have to reach out and invite in and vice versa. We have to include all people at all abilities. I really want to thank you all, and Jim for doing what you’re doing and Kim as well. I look forward to continuing to have our Center work and support what you’re doing and work with education and training in the future to make sure that people have access to the training education that they want to get and where they want to take that. With that, any just other final thing that you would like to say? And Kim, I’ll start with you and Jim, end with you.

Kim Conner: Thank you Linda and thank you so much for inviting us here today to have this conversation. Really appreciate your interest in reaching out to us and learning more about what we do and inviting us to do this podcast and getting out the information in the disability perspective and the challenges that we meet as, you know, we do our work. I really appreciate the platform and really appreciate and looking forward to working with you in the future.

Jim House: This is Jim, please do come work with us. We are happy to work with you. We’re happy to answer any questions. And remember that this is just the beginning. It is not the end. We will continue to persevere as we see change over time, as there’s new technology, new resources that we find where we see gaps that we have the opportunity to fix to remove barriers and provide access for those who have functional needs and training for others. We’re always learning. Every day we learn. So we welcome you to come and have that dialogue with us. And definitely, we look forward to working with you in the future.

Linda Crerar: Thank you again so much. And this podcast will be available. Our April Confluence newsletter will have a full interview with Jim and about his groups and his coalition. So I encourage everyone to look for that. And you can also find our website at We will look forward to having more conversations, and so everyone, thank you so much.

Jim House: You’re welcome, thank you.

Share This Post!

Related Posts