Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

F. Ellen Netting


Natural and human-influenced disasters impact every demographic group around the world. People with disabilities face unique barriers to disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery related to functional needs and societal barriers. This study examines the relationship between emergency management planners and disability communities, by exploring the intent of emergency management policy, implementation of the policy, and the experiences of people with disabilities in Jamaica and Virginia. In this study, 36 people with disabilities were interviewed about their experiences with disaster, and 18 planners were interviewed about the intent and implementation of disaster management plans. Participants were from different communities across Jamaica and Virginia, and included people with various disabilities as well as individuals in various planning roles from government employees to agency representatives involved in municipal, regional, and national level planning. In addition, the researcher analyzed the National Disaster Action Plan of Jamaica and the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101 of the United States. Findings indicate that in Jamaica and Virginia, strengths exist, including some instances of collaborative planning, a focus on subsidiarity to answer needs as close to home as possible, and an emphasis on flexibility. Challenges were also identified, instances when planning and response did not meet the needs experienced by persons with disabilities, and in which vulnerabilities were exposed. These challenges interfered with participants’ equal access to services afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jamaica. Implications of these strengths and challenges for social work practice, education, and research are discussed in the context of this study, in the context of the principle of social and economic justice.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

Included in

Social Work Commons