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Preface


The Annenberg Washington Program provides a neutral forum, open to diverse opinion, for assessing the impact of communications technologies and public policies. This report bridges two of the Program's major areas of inquiry: communications policy in disaster relief and mitigation, and communications and disability policy.

As part of the examination of communications in times of disaster, the Program has worked to promote the effective use of communications technologies and policies to inform the public, save lives, and reduce suffering in the face of tragedy.

The Program first explored the link between communications and disaster mitigation just days after the world learned of the disaster at Chernobyl. Since then the Program has sponsored 10 major meetings and published six reports on the use of communications technologies and media to mitigate natural and complex disasters.

Beginning in 1990, The Annenberg Washington Program examined the role of communications policy in the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Program has since published reports examining the employment provisions of the ADA; the pre and postADA employment practices at Sears, Roebuck and Company; and communications technology, inclusive education, and the ADA.

The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities is an independent federal agency established to facilitate the communication, coordination, and promotion of public and private efforts to enhance the employment of people with disabilities. The Committee provides information, training, and technical assistance to America's business leaders, organized labor, rehabilitation and service providers, advocacy organizations, families, and individuals with disabilities. The President's Committee reports annually to the President on the progress and problems of maximizing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The President's Committee recently signed a Statement of Understanding with the American Red Cross. The agreement outlines pro-active communications strategies between these organizations and helps establish a mechanism for providing disaster assistance to persons with disabilities. The President's Committee also provided the American Red Cross with computer listings of more than 9,000 disability advocates in the United States and its territories.

The Annenberg Washington Program and the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities share a long-standing commitment to using communications technology and policy to save lives and reduce human suffering in the face of disasters throughout the world. For too long people with disabilities have been excluded from this dialogue.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of The Annenberg Washington Program's first meeting on disaster communications and the fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Program is delighted to publish Disaster Mitigation for Persons with Disabilities: Fostering a New Dialogue.

This collaborative report is meant to stimulate discussion of the issues and search for answers to problems. Although it is based on discussions with many people, it calls for much broader dialogue and research to address issues at the nexus of communications policy and disaster relief for persons with disabilities.

We are grateful to all the participants who have devoted themselves to this important task.

Newton N. Minow
Director
The Annenberg Washington Program

Tony Coehlo
Chair
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities