Disability, as a product of person–environment interaction, is particularly sensitive to catastrophic events and disasters. Disasters are specific to a physical location, as are the resources needed to handle the aftermath of the event. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology provides the ability to spatially coordinate resources from separate systems, which is vital for emergency management. GIS provides the capacity to go beyond surveillance and identification of at-risk people with disabilities to actively address the spatial nature of the person–environment interaction. GIS may provide the basis for further investigation and development of the science of environmental factors in the person–environment interaction. Mapping resources, and not just people, in the environment can change the perception and portrayal of people with disabilities in disaster incidents from people with “special needs” to people and organizations that are community contributors. Disability policy advocates, working at the state level, need to get disability-relevant geospatial data into the critical infrastructure used for emergency planning and response. A map showing the proximity of available resources demonstrates the importance of GIS to people with disabilities by identifying available resources in disaster response and recovery.
Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Vol 17, No 4