Evacuating Persons with Disabilities

Improving the accessibility of emergency response

Advancements in accessibility and rights for people with disabilities have increased concern at all orders of government for improving emergency services for people with disabilities. Often the main focus of emergency managers is to increase public emergency awareness, but how can emergency processes be better informed by the perceptions and needs of the public, especially people with disabilities?

In 2021, the MacEachen Institute received funding from Accessibility Standards Canada to study Evacuating Persons with Disabilities. The project supplements more general work on evacuation funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)

The project analyzes four stages of evacuation: communication and alert; transportation; shelter; and return to community, with a focus on improvements for people with disabilities.

Research objectives

The project intends to improve governance and practice of all phases of evacuation to ensure all access and functional needs for persons with disabilities are met by:

  • Understanding how information can best be relayed to persons with disabilities and what information will be most empowering to persons with disabilities. Assess how persons requiring evacuation assistance can best be identified, located, and supported during an evacuation. 
  • Using Halifax as a case study to understand how to prioritize people needing assistance and the optimal transportation routes to evacuate persons with disabilities. 
  • Identifying the most suitable facilities to use as shelters during an evacuation that meet the access and functional needs of all shelter residents, including persons with disabilities. 
  • Identifying the key considerations to support persons with disabilities effectively to transition back to their communities.

Reports, briefing notes and presentations

Mass Evacuation and People with Disabilities

Final Report

Évacuations massives et personnes ayant un handicap

Rapport final


Communication and Alert for Mass Evacuations: Improving Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Kevin Quigley and Kaitlynne Lowe, June 2022


Planning of Emergency Evacuation for Persons with Disability

MD Jahedul Alam and Muhammad Ahsanul Habib, May 2023

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: Evacuation planning for persons with mobility needs: A combined optimization and traffic microsimulation modelling approach (Download PDF


Accessible, Functional Shelter for People with Disabilities

Rosanne Burke, Mary Jane Kelly, Katie Aubrecht, May 2023


Return and Recovery from Mass Evacuations: Improving Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Kevin Quigley and Kaitlynne Lowe, May 2023



Government of Canada

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada (Accessibility Standards Canada) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

“The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.”