Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind

A high school student is making a difference in Greece, NY, by advocating for herself and others with disabilities. She has urged the school district to alter how some students will be evacuated from school buildings in an emergency. Giana Bisnett is a freshman at Greece Athena High School, and as a young woman in a wheelchair, one thing has always concerned her: fire drills.

Bisnett chose to take action. She conducted extensive research on evacuation chairs, used to assist people with disabilities down the stairs in an emergency. She decided to approach the Greece Central School District about purchasing them.

The school district quickly agreed to purchase them. The district utilized some of its COVID funds to purchase Evac-Chairs for every school with more than one story. Bisnett plans to travel to Washington, D.C., this summer with EmpowHER to advocate for using Evac-Chairs in schools nationwide.

Kevin Nunez, 35, has cerebral palsy. He recalls being terrified two decades ago while his fellow students at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School in New Jersey evacuated without him.

Nunez’s evacuation plan at school was to wheel himself into the women’s bathroom. He then would go into the wheelchair-accessible stall, the only space large enough for his power wheelchair. Then he would turn around with his back to the door.

Growing up, fire drills were always stressful for me. Someone typically told me that we were having a fire drill beforehand. While well-intentioned, this wasn’t helpful.

Sudden loud noises can startle me. The startle reflex usually disappears in babies between 3-6 months old. However, this reflex never went away for me. Retention of this reflex is often seen in people with Cerebral Palsy.

I would go to the stairwell and sit and wait during fire drills. I was afraid that I would be left behind. During an emergency drill, I wanted to leave the building safely, as any nondisabled person would. Everyone’s well-being should be a priority.

One day, while I was in middle school, an adult told me, “Pick a cute fireman to carry you.” I was appalled. I felt like my well-being was a joke to this person. I never considered being carried by emergency personnel to be an entitlement or special privilege.

Disabled people shouldn’t be forgotten when developing emergency plans. We don’t want to be left behind. The safety and well-being of a community should be a priority. If an emergency plan is developed without disabled people in mind, millions of lives are at risk.


Edwards CW, Al Khalili Y. Moro Reflex. [Updated 2021 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Leone, Lauren. “Greece Freshman Successfully Advocates for Evac-Chairs for Students with Disabilities.” WHEC.Com, 2 June 2023,

Myers, Gene. “Left behind in School Evacuations, Students with Disabilities Demand More Protection in NJ.” NorthJersey.Com, 11 May 2023,

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: