Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN)

Commitment by Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network

In 2019, the Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network committed to train organizations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to better meet the needs of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in disaster preparedness and response. PWD faced many barriers during Hurricanes María, often left unattended during rescue efforts and forced to contend with damaged supplies, mobility challenges, and lack of electricity to keep lifesaving equipment working. PRDCRN members, including La Defensoría de las Personas con Impedimentos, Movimiento para el Alcance de Vida Independiente, Puerto Rico Council in Developmental Disability, Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Program, and the University Center for Education on Development Deficiencies, have developed an extensive capacity building program to ensure the integration of PWD into emergency preparedness. The commitment will extend this training to 8,000 individuals over the next four years, holding 200 workshops per year and implementing a train-the-trainer program with 10 agencies per year to ensure the continuity and multiplying effect of the program.



Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN)



Est. Duration

3 Years

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean


Puerto Rico

Commitment by

Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

B/Adaptable; Movimiento para el Alcance de Vida Independiente (MAVI); University of Puerto Rico

PRDCRN has developed an extensive capacity building program geared towards the effective handling of PWD and appropriate ways to integrate their needs into the mitigation, planning, response, and recovery stages of an emergency or disaster. Through this commitment, the Network commits to expanding their advocacy and capacity building activities consisting of workshops to be provided to private and public agencies, first responders, volunteers, elderly housing administrators, community leaders, and corporations. The partners will conduct 200 trainings per year, impacting 2,000 people, over the next four years in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to reach a total of 8,000 people.

The trainings will cover topics such as sensitivity training, the consequences of non-inclusive emergency planning, notification strategies before a disaster, shelter preparedness, evacuation processes for PWD, alternative communication methods, and training on laws that protect PWDs. Additionally, the partners will use a "train the trainer" model with approximately ten agencies per year, so that additional agencies will be prepared to offer the workshops and ensure the continuity and multiplying effect of the program. PWD and their families will also be trained on effective preparation processes for different disaster scenarios and how to prepare emergency tool kits.

The Defensoría de Las Personas con Impedimentos will monitor agencies involved in emergency planning to ensure systems change in future plans and provide legal assistance to people with disabilities. MAVI will run the capacity building program focused on emergency preparedness. UCEDD will provide research and evaluation for the training program. CEDD will identify funding sources and program development opportunities for the network. PRATP will develop technological options for the trainings to ensure accessible communication alternatives such as hearing aids, communication boards, and verbal communication equipment.

PRDCRN will also to evaluate the satisfaction and impact of the training curriculum and incorporate these results into future plans. The group's overall expectation is to generate systems change in future emergency plans and awareness of the needs of this community neglected in the past, and to ensure that the voice of PWD is represented in the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The PRDCRN's first funder and supporter of the network was Paul Timmons, Portlight Inclusive Strategies.

Host average of 16 workshops per month in 2019, with 10 people per workshop
200 workshops hosted and 2,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)

Host 200 workshops (average of 16 per month)
4,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)

Host 200 workshops
6,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)

Host 200 workshops
8,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)

October 2022
Conclusion of training program and assessments


In the aftermath of Hurricane María, the absence of planning and services provided to people with disabilities (PWD), people with Deficiencies in Development (DID), and people with access and functional needs were evident. They confronted many barriers that jeopardized their health and security, and were left unattended during the rescue efforts of first responders and government agencies. Some barriers confronted included damaged assistive equipment; lack of mobility/transportation, leaving PWD unable to transport themselves to where water, food, and aid was available; lack of proper food to meet dietary requirements; and lack of electricity to keep lifesaving equipment working.

The hurricane highlighted several key needs in terms of the needs of people with access and functional needs, PWD, and people with DID: shelters must be accessible; accessible communication methods need to be implemented for the safety of people with communication barriers; and people with disabilities should be identified before emergency events and intentionally included in planning and rescue efforts.

In order to address these gaps, there is a need for training first responders, public and private agencies, community leaders, volunteers, people with disabilities, their families, and the general public on how to better integrate the needs of PWD, DID, and people with access and functional needs into preparedness plans.

In recognition of this need, several organizations dedicated to the security and wellbeing of PWD came together to form the Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN) after Hurricane María, to identify and attend to the urgent needs of PWD. However, seeing the widespread negligence towards the disability community on the island, the group decided it was necessary to engage further in advocacy and capacity building efforts.

Partnership Opportunities

The sustainability and development of PRDCRN is vital. Support is needed in the following areas. (1) Relationships with stakeholders and members of Congress, allies and advocates for the inclusion of PWD in emergency planning and other issues that concern them. This is of utmost importance for systems change to happen; (2) Funding is essential for the evolution of this network. All PRDCRN's members are volunteers, yet they need a location with warehousing space to operate from and maintain inventory (assistive equipment and basic needs supply) to provide PWD in a future event. Personnel to support their five-year strategic plan is also needed. (3) Partnerships with organizations with expertise on the subject is important for PRDCRN's capacity building process and continuous insight of actual and changing information involving disasters or emergencies. (4) Media coverage is needed to create awareness of services available for PWD in preparedness and response efforts and support initiatives being proposed. The Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network's vision is to ensure that all people with disabilities are safe and secure before, during, and after a disaster. This holds true for PWD on the island and elsewhere. In order to fulfill this goal, collaboration and partnerships are of essence. PRDCRN is eager to share their capacity building workshops and material with agencies or organizations who share their vision. A “Train the Trainer” & Agency Capacity Building Program will be available in order to ensure a cross sector partnership approach that will provide a multiplying effect in the reach to additional areas of Puerto Rico (which include Vieques and Culebra), US Virgin Islands and any other interested party to ensure the dissemination, impact and effectiveness of the program. The material has also been made available in MAVI’s website for access for all interested parties.

Progress Reports

February 2021

The partners started theirproject with several one-year grants from American Red Cross, Unidos por Puerto Rico, and Flamboyán Foundation that covered the years 2018 through 2019. However, MAVI was able to continue this program through a grant received by Christopher Reeve Foundation for the year 2020 and will continue 2021 with a grant received by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This new grant will also include sign language classes for PWD, their family members, and a community support system in order to facilitate effective communication at all times. The sign language courses will be offered to an average of 150 individuals.

The Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN) has had the opportunity to continue providing this capacity-building program to people with disabilities, their families, community members, and agencies involved in the response and recovery efforts after a disaster or emergency. The original goal for a four-year period was surpassed during the first two years of their commitment. However, 2020 was challenging for the offering of these workshops due to the complications related to COVID 19 social distancing restrictions. This situation forced the partners to put a halt to the program while finding virtual alternatives to offer these workshops. The workshops are still being offered through virtual alternatives to this day.

PRDCRN continues to confront an increasing number of agencies interested in participating in the workshops and still have a large number of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) that need to learn how to prepare themselves for a future disaster. They also recognize the importance of having at least one completely accessible shelter per municipality where PWD, people with IDD, people with medical needs, and mobility issues will be accommodated in a proper manner. PRDCRN proposes to add consulting services to one shelter per municipality (78 in total) and a recommendation report with areas of improvement to comply with ADA regulations. They are still trying to identify funding for this initiative.

Awareness and advocacy efforts need to continue until inclusive disaster plans are achieved. This makes it fundamental to continue the emergency preparedness program. Although the PRDCRN has funds for the workshops and sign language classes for this year, additional grants are vital for the sustainability of their programs.