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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Ensuring Equitable Access during Disasters and Public Health Emergencies

Federal Laws and Executive Orders

There are a number of federal laws and executive orders that provide and enforce equitable access to programs and services in disasters and public health emergencies. Federal laws protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, economic status, disability, and English proficiency.

Some of these federal requirements are specific to disasters and public health emergencies; while other requirements offer protection against discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures in general, and are not waived in emergency situations. The table below summarizes key federal requirements are applicable to all state and local governments, as well as public and private entities.

Federal Laws / Regulations / Authorities People with Disabilities
Older Adults  Older
Limited English Proficiency Limited English Proficiency​ Race / Color / National Origin Sex Sex Socio-Economic Group Socio-Economic Group
Public Health Service (PHS) Act of 1944XXXXXX
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964   XX 
Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972    X 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973X     
Age Discrimination Act of 1975 X    
Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988XXXXXX
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990X     
Executive Order 13166 - Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency  X   
Executive Order 13347 - Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency PreparednessX     
Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) of 2006XXXXXX

  • This page last reviewed: September 08, 2020