A $100,000 grant will help Long Beach ensure that residents with disabilities aren’t left out of its public health plans for disasters and emergencies.

The funding from the National Association of County and City Health Officials allowed the city to hire two accessibility advocates, who started earlier this month and will be working with the community to find and address any gaps in Long Beach’s disaster preparedness.

In addition to building relationships with the disability community, the new team plans to focus on reviewing the city’s plans for disaster communications and mass shelters, said Access and Functional Needs Coordinator Esmeralda Garcia.

If, say, an earthquake left a large number of homes uninhabitable and the city needed to provide shelter, how would people with disabilities get there? What kind of accommodations would a shelter have for those who use wheelchairs or have impaired vision? The new hires will explore these kinds of issues, Garcia said.

Earlier in the pandemic, the city “didn’t think about food insecurity for people with disabilities,” said Kim Vuong, one of the accessibility advocates. “From personal experience I think people with disabilities need to be at the table.”

One way the city will encourage residents with disabilities to share their input is in a series of free zine-making workshops, the first of which was held Monday afternoon at the Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave.

James Brooks, accessible arts workshop coordinator for Able ARTS Work, leads a zine-making workshop at the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls Monday, April 17, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Local nonprofit Able ARTS Work is running the workshops, where people are given emergency preparedness information and provided with prompts to talk about their pandemic experiences with getting resources (such as food and vaccines) and what could have been improved, said Kristy Glass, Able ARTS Work’s director of community advancement.

When it comes to zines (do-it-yourself mini magazines), there are no rules, Glass said, so people can tell their stories with words, drawings, or however else they want.

“It’s a great way to get people to think about and process their experience and also to share what could have been different for them,” she said.

Future zine workshops are scheduled for May 9 and 15 and June 7, culminating in a showcase at the Billie Jean King Library on July 15. More information on the events can be found here.

McKenzie Stribich, 32, left, and Hillary Cunin, 32, participate in a zine-making workshop hosted by Able ARTS Work at the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls Monday, April 17, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.