Greetings, Friends:

Thanks to your generous support over the past ten days, Portlight Strategies and the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies have assisted thousands of hurricane Harvey survivors with disabilities, their families and good people trying to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophic flooding that followed.

We are actively coordinating national and state disability response initiatives in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Our coordinating efforts are also building a national infrastructure to prepare for all disasters to follow, engaging disability stakeholders in leadership roles.

Our work over the past 10 days has included guidance and technical assistance to state and local emergency management and disability organizations for:

  • civil rights compliance
  • accessible alerts and warnings
  • accessible, actionable information for survivors who require information in alternate formats
  • evacuation
  • rescue
  • accessible transportation
  • finding medical help
  • coordination between stakeholders and FEMA
  • training and technical assistance on understanding how federal emergency response, recovery and mitigation works to optimize disability inclusion and coordination throughout all programs and services.
  • assisting individuals and organizations to through the FEMA registration process and begin to understand how navigate the various state and federal programs individuals may be eligible for
  • organizing donations, matches and delivery of durable medical equipment, assistive technology and disability related supplies
  • preventing unnecessary nursing home placement and tracking these placements as we learn about them- we are committed to doing all we can so no one gets lost or forgotten
  • providing guidance and technical assistance to address sign language interpreter denials
  • accessibility in temporary sheltering, including the Red Cross Disability Integration program
  • accessibility in transitional housing including the FEMA Transitional Sheltering Assistance program
  • restoration of special education services and child care for children with disabilities

Here is a snapshot of some of our work in the past 10 days and our current efforts in TX and the states potentially impacted by Irma:

Our Hotline (800) 626-4959 has received 650 calls for immediate, urgent assistance for rescue, medical and disability assistance and other emergency needs. We have been able to resolve 77% of these calls.

Our hotline volunteers have returned every voicemail and they are utilizing a case coordination system built earlier this week to continue to expand our capacity to receive address and resolve all calls.

We have convened daily calls and supported the appropriate leaders to assume leadership of these daily information, coordination and problem-solving meetings. Daily meeting includes:

  • TX disability stakeholder groups, led by Maria Town, Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
  • National disability organizations, federal, state and local partners led by our Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
  • Durable Medical Equipment, Assistive Technology and Disability Supplies coordination for receiving and distributing urgently needed items that are safe, clean, and as close to what people need as possible. In most cases, these needs will be met with loaned items while the disaster survivor navigates the replacement process with FEMA and any insurance assistance they may be eligible for. These calls and this initiative are being led by Carolyn Phillips from the Pass It On Center National Network at GA Tech
  • We have launched daily hurricane Irma stakeholder calls, and we are supporting FL SILC Director Jim Baker as he takes the lead on these daily calls.

We are closely partnering with the Cajun Navy, Trach Mommas of Louisiana, Protect TX Fragile Kids and Independent Living Research Utilization at TIRR Memorial Herman Research Center to facilitate rescue and delivery of urgent medical supplies to people in immediate need.
This has included:

  • 218 nursing home residents with disabilities rescued by Cajun Navy
  • Cajun Navy helicopter drops of lifesaving medication and medical supplies to several families unreachable by road. This included Protect TX Fragile Kids facilitating medication sharing by families across the state when mail order pharmacies, who are the only place to obtain this medication, refused to deliver the medication to a reachable pharmacy or hospital for us to arrange delivery from.
  • Cajun Navy helicopter drop for NICU needing specialized formula for 14 babies who were without the specialized formula they had been trying to obtain for 3 days.
  • Trach Mommas of Louisiana and Protect TX Fragile Kids who are providing immediate supplies to hotline callers and other individuals and families in immediate need.

We have also been working closely with Anthem to locate their members and to bring some of their resources to non-member disaster survivors with disabilities, including their 24-hour nurse hotline (866) 417-1707 and on-line access to a doctor for assistance with specific medical problems at This is a free service for disaster survivors through the month of October.

Portlight Strategies and the Partnership are providing technical assistance and guidance to prevent disaster survivors from being turned away from shelters, denied sign language interpreters, denied their civil rights, inappropriate institutionalization and experiencing many of the same issues as in past disasters.

As we are assisting people with disabilities who are survivors of Hurricane Harvey we are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Irma. Weather reports indicate that landfall in the US may be likely. Should there be destruction as a result of that storm we are poised to assist people with disabilities in affected areas.

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS FOR REMOTE ASSISTANCE (no deployment involved). Training provided. Must have reliable internet connectivity.

Here’s what we need:

  • Hotline volunteers to receive calls, log them into our database, make immediate referrals when appropriate and follow instructions carefully to streamline assistance to callers in need.
  • Resource List collection, coordination and data entry
  • Scheduler for volunteers and meetings
  • Notetakers for meetings
  • Social media coordinator
  • GIS/Mapping expert to coordinate impact locations for our internal awareness

If you can offer volunteer assistance for any of these needs, please send an email to

Give us your name, phone, email, what you are offering and any required accommodations you’d need.

Please be patient with us, we are responding to urgent needs first and building capacity to answer every call and provide immediate referrals.

Thank you for your support and partnership.

Portlight Strategies
PORTLIGHT HOTLINE: (800) 626-4959

Please click below to go to the Portlight website and make a donation, or use the direct donation link: