September 13, 2021

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National Preparedness Month is an observance each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. This year features the Bring Down Barriers toolkit to bring additional focus to the needs of all populations affected by disasters. The toolkit includes social media messages and graphics that highlight ways the whole community can come together to reduce or remove barriers to emergency preparedness and response. Organizations and individuals interested in amplifying this information can use #PrepYourHealth and #BringDownBarriers on social media platforms.

Learn more about this important topic by joining CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response for a webinar on Wednesday, September 15, at 1 p.m. ET. The webinar will feature presentations by CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI). CDC encourages leaders who are responsible for the safety of others to attend. This includes community leaders, public health workers, emergency responders, school administrators, managers of assisted living facilities, and workplace safety officers.

This year’s National Preparedness Month brings attention to the challenges people face that can make it difficult for them to prepare for, respond to, and recover from an emergency. Often, more than one challenge occurs at a time. Some of the most common challenges are communication, social, and transportation barriers, and challenges with processes and systems. Bringing down these barriers requires the whole community to work together.

Communication Barriers 

Communication barriers can be experienced by different populations of people. They include people who have limited English proficiency; people who have disabilities that affect hearing, vision, speech, reading, writing, or understanding; and people who use non-verbal communication. Examples of communication barriers include:
  • Information products that are not accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Videos without captions
  • Media briefings and community meetings without sign language interpretation and real-time captioning
  • Information and products delivered in a manner that are not culturally or linguistically appropriate for the intended audience
  • Information that is not written in plain language or available in multiple languages and alternate formats
  • Misinformation and rumor

Social Barriers 

Social barriers are related to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, and age – or social determinants of health – that can affect a wide range of risks and outcomes connected to health and quality of life. Examples of social barriers include:

  • Long travel distances
  • Physical barriers (e.g., no sidewalks, wheelchair ramps, etc.)
  • Limited or no access to computers and the internet (i.e., the digital divide)
  • Stigma, prejudice, racism, ableism, and other discrimination

Transportation Barriers 

Transportation barriers are due to a lack of access to or ability to use transportation, making it difficult or impossible for a person to be independent and function fully in society. Many people have physical, cognitive, economic, or other limitations that affect their ability to use motor vehicles. Examples of transportation barriers include:
  • Limited, inconvenient, or no access to accessible public or private transportation
  • Physical barriers (e.g., no sidewalks, lack of or inoperable lifts and ramps, etc.)
  • Negative perceptions or misunderstanding of the transportation needs of people with disabilities
  • Stigma associated with using public transportation 

Challenges with Processes and Systems

Challenges with processes and systems, also known as programmatic barriers, limit the effective delivery of a public health or healthcare program for people with different types of disabilities and social needs. Examples of challenges with processes and systems include:

  • Scheduling or registration processes that are not convenient or accessible including online registration that doesn’t integrate with screen readers or complex telephone scheduling processes
  • Unpredictable work hours or unemployment
  • Little, inappropriate, or no communication with disproportionately affected communities

Additional Resources 

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