The recent events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left devastated the lives of thousands of people in the Gulf Coast region. People with disabilities in this region were among some of those who experienced the most profound impact of the disaster. In September 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provided assistance to the states affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by deploying a team of Disability Program Navigators (DPN) to the region. The goal of the DPNs dispatched to Louisiana and Mississippi was to work within the states’ workforce development systems and rehabilitation agencies to identify individuals with disabilities and to provide them with resources and assistance that would enable them to obtain necessary resources and benefits, and to resume, or to obtain, employment.

The overall objectives of this project are to 1) to chronicle the experience of people with disabilities in the Gulf Coast region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; 2) to determine the extent to which local, state, and federal emergency preparedness policies and procedures accounted for, and served the needs of, people with disabilities; 3) to evaluate the effectiveness of the DPNs in assisting people with disabilities in the region to obtain services and resources; and 4) to examine the implementation of the DPN Hurricane Initiative and to discern lessons that may be applied during future disasters and/or in the development of emergency preparedness policies related to people with disabilities.

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