Feds adapt emergency homes for the disabled

People with disabilities would have a safe place to sleep if they lose their home during a natural disaster, under new rules from the Obama administration.

The federal government often provides temporary emergency housing for people after a natural disaster strikes, but because the mobile homes are intended to be deployed quickly they are small and often present difficulties for people with disabilities.

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To fix this problem, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as the Access Board, announced Tuesday in the Federal Register rule changes that would make sure at least some of these homes can accommodate people with disabilities. 

"Access to such housing was found to be problematic in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005," the agency wrote.

The new rules would require the Justice Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update their accessibility standards for these emergency transportable homes.

The rules would require that at least 5 percent of these homes provide mobility features, while 10 percent would need to be constructed so that they can accept the installation of mobility features, if needed.

In these homes, the rules would include changes to the floor surfaces, bedrooms, and weather alert systems for people with disabilities. They would also include communications systems for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss, such as smoke alarms with visible notifications. 

In a normal year, the federal government deploys about 165 emergency homes for people with disabilities, which costs between about $28,000 and $100,000, the agency estimated.

But in the worst case scenario, such as a storm like Hurricane Katrina, the cost could range as high as $18 million, the agency noted.