How Does Climate Change Influence People with Disabilities?
Scientists have long been warning of climate change and its corresponding challenges for the earth and its inhabitants. But the conversation has rarely focused on what it will mean for people with disabilities, until now.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) changed that with a resolution calling governments to adopt a disability-inclusive approach for climate change solutions and responses.
Most consider this resolution a win, but critics wonder if it’s too late to really make a difference as many cities are already experiencing the severe weather patterns associated with climate change. When it comes to evacuations or severe weather responses, individuals with disabilities are at a disadvantage for navigating to safety. The other difficulty is that disabilities often cover a spectrum, which means no one plan fits all.
The United Nations Human Rights Council pointed out that people with disabilities often do not have access to the right resources, information, or services to successfully adapt to climate change. History shows that many are likely to face neglect, abandonment, or death during natural disasters. This resolution from the UNHRC is a step toward remedying the gap in engaging people with disabilities in climate resilience and solutions.
3 Main Problems for Disability and Climate Change
Lack of Information
The UN specified that the portion of the population with disabilities suffers from limited access to resources and services. Based on the UN flagship report, people with disabilities, specifically the youth, do not have enough education on how to respond to natural disasters. In these situations, more knowledge can be life-saving — increasing the chance of survival during a crisis.
Individuals with disabilities may also suffer from underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to infectious diseases and other problems. People with mobility problems will struggle to access water and other life necessities.
In the event of extreme weather such as hurricanes, floods, or cyclones, people with disabilities are at a disadvantage for evacuating due to mobility issues or impaired senses. While rescue teams are trained in helping individuals with disabilities, more civilians and city organizations need to know how to help aid their community members with impairments. City governments should also have a plan for helping to evacuate individuals with disabilities.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development conducted a survey about evacuation and people with disabilities. The survey reports that 72% of people with disabilities had no plan for natural disasters and that nearly 80% would not be able to evacuate immediately without difficulty following a disaster. The results also stated that “the needs of persons with disabilities are often overlooked in the early phases of response to humanitarian emergencies and difficulties are often faced in accessing services and assistance, including rehabilitation and assistive products which are critical for recovery."
The United Nations Human Rights Council has made it clear that climate change plans must include individuals with disabilities. This will require governments to create training programs, evacuation plans, and more in order to serve the needs of people with disabilities and impairments. While these changes won’t happen immediately, it’s crucial that the conversation starts now.
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