Last week’s storm made it clear there’s no safety net for disabled Texans during a disaster. Advocates say that can be a death sentence.
Like many Texans, Rafael Garcia couldn’t sleep while his power was out last week.
He wasn’t just cold. He was afraid he’d stop breathing in the middle of the night.
“I had gone a full 24 hours without my breathing treatments, which keep my airwaves open. I remember thinking, ‘OK Ralph, you gotta keep breathing. You can’t have an asthma attack. You can’t panic.’”
The 25-year-old disability rights advocate from San Antonio has spinal muscular dystrophy.
He and his mother endured more than two days of rolling blackouts. Garcia had to ration the medical equipment he uses every day.
Across Texas, people with disabilities and their families struggled to keep powering the equipment they rely on to stay alive or to keep pain at bay.
Advocates say there aren’t many statewide resources for people with disabilities during an extreme weather event. Stephanie Duke with Disability Rights Texas specializes in disaster resiliency.
“There has been a push for inclusive preparedness as far as the obligations of local government,” Duke said. “Texas has a volunteer registry for individuals with disabilities to sign up for.”
The registry gives local emergency management teams basic information about residents with disabilities.
“But whether or not the local government utilizes that is up to them. There’s no oversight or authority to enforce that,” Duke said.