Portland ‘unprepared to help people with disabilities’

Civic Affairs

Report done by Portland City Auditor's office

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The pandemic “exposed how unprepared the City (of Portland) is to assist people with disabilities, no matter the type of emergency,” an official audit revealed Wednesday.

The report, released December 8, was done by the Portland City Auditor’s office and looked at whether Portlanders with disabilities could expect to have their needs met during an emergency.

The short answer: No.

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management “does not have the information, expertise, or capacity needed to anticipate and plan for the emergency needs of people with disabilities,” a release from the City Auditor’s office said.

Moreover, the city’s emergency plans “are outdated, have gaps related to disability issues, and do not include reliable practices for complying with the (Americans with Disabilities) Act.”

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero said the length of the pandemic gave city officials the opportunity to test and refine its response to people with disabilities without the physical emergency of a wildfire or earthquake.

“The City’s inability to successfully manage its emergency planning responsibilities across bureaus contributes to the lack of preparedness,” the release said.

Over the past 30 years, the Portland City Council has said its committed to complying with the ADA, but their words have not been met by actions and resources to make sure people with disabilities have access to necessary programs and services, the audit said.

“Talk without action doesn’t cut it,” Hull Caballero said. “The lives of people with disabilities are at stake.”

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