Resident Feature

Communication Boards and Emergency Go-Bags at the DSCBA

Imagine being in an emergency with no way to communicate how you feel, if you are in pain and where it hurts. Perhaps you have limited language, you may have an intellectual or developmental disability and you are scared, hurt or maybe even in shock. The inability to communicate might sometimes turn into a behavior that could be misunderstood by the first responders and could result in unnecessary force or mistreatment. It also goes without saying the importance of being able to explain where or what hurts or the fear you have in getting into an ambulance or how the sounds of a siren could put you into sensory overload. 

Recently, the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area (DSCBA) worked with Danielle Bell, Emergency Coordinator for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District in providing printed/laminated communication boards which are low-tech Alternative and Augmentative Communication systems that allow those with language challenges to point to pictures that can help the interaction between the challenged communicator and the first responder. 

Danielle received grant monies to put together emergency kits for SRV firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians and the DSCBA happily assisted in providing these low-tech boards. If you would like to learn more about the contents of the kits and the grant, please contact Danielle at 

In my role at the DSCBA, I have recently joined the AFN (Assess Functional Needs) Steering Committee. I shared these communication boards with some of the members and they will now be going in the FAST (Functional Assessment Service Team) GO bags. These GO BAGS are emergency bags that will go along with the AFN Steering committee member that will be called to an emergency shelter to assist with assessing functional needs of those with disabilities. Just to give you a better idea of the items in the GO bags they will be things like noise reduction headphones, battery chargers for wheelchairs/ scooter, sensory items, sleep masks, etc. A book, Going to the Hospital, is also available to help those who may need it. 

For more information on the DSCBA, please go to 

By Marianne Iversen, Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area