Your Rights in a Disaster

Disability Rights in Shelters and in Disaster/Emergency Response

  • People with disabilities cannot be denied access to shelters (shelters cannot discriminate when providing safety, comfort, or basic needs).
  • Service animals are always allowed in shelters.
  • You have a right to shelter-provided personal assistance services, backup power for medical devices, privacy for personal care, and accommodations for meeting disability-related needs for reduced stimulation.
  • Equally effective communication must be provided such as Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), American Sign Language (ASL), materials in alternative format (Braille, large print, plain language).
  • Shelters must be physically accessible. You have the right to accessible sleeping, eating, medical and recreation areas, toilets, showers, and transportation (when transportation is available to others).
  • Families should never be separated at shelters.
  • It is a violation of your civil rights to be directed towards a “special needs or medical shelter,” a nursing home, hospital, or other medical or psychiatric facilities. You have a right to an accessible shelter.
  • Community evacuation transportation plans must include accessible options for people with mobility disabilities or limited transportation. You have a right to personal assistance/disability services and supports in an accessible community shelter, not transferred to a “special” shelter, hospital or nursing home.

Resource for accessible shelters

Resource for shelters during COVID-19


Immigrant Rights in Shelters and in Disaster/Emergency Response

  • You have a right to disaster/emergency response and relief

Guidelines for Enforcement Actions in or Near Protected Areas says, “To the fullest extent possible, we should not take an enforcement action in or near a location that would restrain people’s access to essential services or engagement in essential activities. Such a location is referred to as a “protected area.”

In providing examples of what a protected area is, the policy includes “A place where disaster or emergency response and relief is being provided, such as

  • Along evacuation routes,
  • Where shelter or emergency supplies, food, or water are being distributed, 
  • Registration for disaster-related assistance or family reunification is underway.”



Report Discrimination

DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Compliance Branch:

+1 (866) 644-8360 / TTY: 1-866-644-8361

Or email

FEMA External Civil Rights Division: +1 (833) 285-7448

[Press 1 for English, 2 for español, 3 for other languages] 

TTY: 800-462-7585

Or email 


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