People with Disabilities Cannot be Collateral Damage to Climate Change

What BBC Travel Journalist and Paralympian Ade Adepitan Sees for the Future of the Global Disabled Community

As a travel journalist for BBC, Ade Adepitan is constantly facing the profound effects of climate change in the countries around the world that he is sent to report in. Like most other journalists, he’s disheartened by the consequences of rising global temperatures on the people he meets, the cultures he has come to understand, and the places he stays. A recent project of his covered the effects that melting Himalayan ice will have on the communities it floods -- a gradual situation that will have disastrous consequences, leading to the displacement of millions of people and creating a stream of climate refugees towards drier land. The difference between Ade Adepitan and his co-workers? Adepitan processes all this from the unique perspective of a wheelchair, the result of contracting polio as a toddler.

The disability ensures that Adepitan has a perspective unlike any on his team; as he works on reports, he is always mindful of a perspective that often flies under the radar: people with disabilities. As one of the few journalists in the world reporting from a wheelchair, Adepitan has had to overcome other people’s perceptions to gain his spot in the BBC studio. But he is no stranger to hard work, Adepitan is a two-time Paralympic qualifier in wheelchair basketball, calling well-needed attention to the games and building towards being an advocate for the disabled community in Great Britain. He has learned over his budding broadcast journalism career that he must unapologetically fight for accommodations that garner him basic human rights.

Now, he advocates for the whole of the disabled community around the world, declaring that people with disabilities cannot be thought of as collateral damage to climate change, that they cannot be left behind or excluded from evacuation or emergency plans that are becoming more and more commonplace.

In fact, Adepitan sees a future in which the fight against climate change untangles old and bigoted perspectives of people with disabilities. The same technology being invented and used against rising global temperatures can be adapted to lessen the stigma against all types of disabilities. From driver-less cars that give people with sight disabilities independence to increased sustainable automation that gives people with physical disabilities a chance to work in the workplace, Adepitan sees a future where climate change can be fought and harmful perceptions can be tossed away at the same time.

Why should the world worry about people with disabilities in conjunction with climate change? For Adepitan, the answer is simple: because they are human beings and are thus entitled to the same basic human rights enjoyed by all humans. Because the right to peace, livelihoods, and a happy life are not constricted to people who are able-bodied.

By Ryan Trombly

Ryan Trombly was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was eighteen months old. The disability causes right-side hemiparesis that affects the entire right side of her body, weakening her muscles and limiting her mobility in everyday activities. Despite this, Ryan had strived to live a normal, independent life without any barriers and hopes to use her voice to advocate for the disabled community.

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