People with Disabilities Left Out of Climate Planning

Scott has used a wheelchair her entire life; she was born with a disability. Even when the weather is calm in New Orleans she is reluctant to leave home to visit friends or go out to shop or eat, because places outside her house can’t guarantee that she’ll be able to maneuver even basic things like using the restroom, passing through an entryway or getting into bed.

Scott house meets the basic accommodations required by law. However, Scott fears every time a storm comes. She lives near a levee, so whenever a major hurricane or tropical storm is forecasted, she fears for her life.

“I try my best to make my home comfortable,” she said, “but if that water ever comes through, I’m in trouble.”

Scott said she can’t rely on the city, state or federal government when storms come, only friends. She said there is inadequate support for disabled people before, during and after disasters, from emergency management agencies at all levels of government.

“We’re on our own,” she said, through tears, to The Associated Press.

Experts and activists echoed her view, telling the AP people with disabilities are left out of emergency and disaster planning, and face hurdles that able-bodied people don’t when disasters strike.

As climate-related disasters become more common and more severe, most countries in the world are “neglecting their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of persons with disabilities in their responses to the climate crisis,” according to a June report from the Disability Inclusive Climate Action Research Program at McGill University and the International Disability Alliance.