Where is Accessibility in Disaster Planning?

Updated: Apr 13

Today I want to cover the issue of accessibility, climate change and disasters in cases when evacuation is needed.

In the building where I live, the elevator is often shut off whenever there is an emergency such as a fire. I personally have had numerous experiences where I couldn’t get downstairs or upstairs due to various emergencies and the elevator being shut down.

If we don’t even have contingency plans for people with disabilities on something as basic as fires inside buildings, a situation that is very prevalent and happens every day somewhere in the world, how will we ever deal with something as gigantic as climate change?

Climate change is happening right now. Things will only get worse even if individual folks take action to curb their carbon footprint. We are at a point where massive action by massive corporations and governments need to be taken right away. It has become a pervasive issue effecting everybody, especially those of us living with disabilities.

I’m not saying individuals shouldn’t try to reduce their carbon footprint because we absolutely should, but I am saying the issue has become exponentially more urgent in recent decades and people with disabilities like us, need to speak up and act sooner rather than later. But I digress, coming back to the disability community, we not only need to speak up broadly on the detriments of climate change on the planet overall, but we also need to speak up on how it affects us, those of us with disabilities! There will be no knight and shining armor to save us. If we don’t speak up for our rights and what we need during these turbulent times, then nobody else will either.

We are not going to automatically evacuate safely when disaster strikes. Evacuation centers are not all of sudden going to become accessible to us. We have to raise our voices, we have to participate in politics, and we have to be clear about how climate change is affecting us and what exactly it is that we all want in terms of contingency plans when climate change inevitably gets worse.

And as much as I’d like to think I can speak for all of your experiences, I am only one person with one perspective. I know how climate change will affect me and my specific disability, but how will it affect you and your specific disabilities? And what can legislators, relief workers, caretakers, parents, friends, etc. do to support you when you need to evacuate your homes in cases of climate change disasters such as flooding or hurricanes or abnormal increase or decrease in temperature or a myriad of other natural disasters that are out there?

Are you ready to speak up for yourself either virtually or in person? With the advancements in technology, it has become easier and easier for people with all kinds of disabilities to speak up and make their voices heart so let’s use those tools and amplify our voices and bring the disability rights movement to a whole new level. Just imagine how powerful it would be if all one billion of us living with disabilities speak up. It would literally change the world.

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