A guide to resources on the impacts of climate breakdown and Disaster Risk Response (DRR). Overviews on understanding and building capacity in relation to DRR, and then sections on a range of the weather events and emergencies climate breakdown brings about.
- Overview and regional news. Here are some high-level resource collections and policy reports on DRR at a global or cross-continent level. Featuring DRR articles and reports from different regions.
- Capacity building and disaster preparedness. From listening to disabled first responders to creative and resourceful DRR trainings, this collection spotlights the leadership and upskilling needed for centring disability in disaster response. Also see the more general section of the same name below which has a broader focus on climate organising and advocacy.
- Health. Climate breakdown impacting the health of disabled people.
- Extreme Heat. From the disabling effects of extreme heat on our bodies to the local and national plans and policies that don’t account for our specific needs, these articles highlight the lived experience of disabled people navigating through a world getting far too hot.
- Fire and environmental pollution. The presence of wildfires is increasingly long-lasting and treacherous. People with respiratory conditions and those whose communities aren’t set up for them to evacuate bear the brunt. Many of the issues overlap with wider air pollution health impacts on disabled people.
- Drought and water scarcity. Access to water is one of the most fundamental basic needs which climate disruption is jeopardising. These resources are quite policy oriented but they give an idea of just how many connected and systemic themes intersect with water shortages, from food security to sanitation.
- Flooding and superstorms. Flooding and superstorms are a climate-fuelled reality in many regions and these resources spotlight how disabled people are being impacted. Themes like inaccessible or non-existent evacuation processes recur across many forms of disaster, and in the case of flooding, storms and other disasters that affect the liveability of buildings, housing also frequently becomes precarious given the compounding challenges of finding alternative and stable accessible accommodation.
- Unreliable power. Unreliable access to energy, especially power, is a showstopper for most people but in the disability community and for those with health conditions, the implications can be life or death. Many need power to breathe, to refrigerate medications, for life-dependent heating or cooling, to charge mobility or communication devices and more. These articles get into disabled people’s experiences of power disruption/precarity.
Overview and regional news
Watch for an overview...
- Why are people with disabilities left out of disaster planning? (Al Jazeera, October 2022. Captioned, no transcript.) “In this episode, we’ll discuss the challenges facing the disabled community during disasters, what progress is being made in terms of emergency planning, and what still needs to be done.”
- Disaster risk reduction and crisis response news collection (Disability Debrief)
- Disability and disaster resources – Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network
- Demanding Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction, resources from Disability Rights Fund
- Our Lessons: disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction report (Pacific Disability Forum, International disability Alliance, CBM Global, March 2022)
- The harms of emergency registries for disabled people, an advocacy resource. The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, US/international.
- Disability and climate change in the Pacific, report (Pacific Disability Forum, 2022)
- “Every High Tide Reaches My Doorstep”: How People with Disabilities Face Climate Change in Solomon Islands (Solomon Times Online)
- Learning from Vanuatu with Nelly Caleb. (Interview for Enabling Commons podcast, 2023.)
- Disability and planning for disaster in the Solomon Islands: Jabis’s story, (CBM Australia, 2022)
- Braille disaster preparedness materials in Samoa. (Ari Hazelman, Disability Justice Project, 2023.)
- Persons with disabilities and climate change in Nepal. Report, Humanity and Inclusion, 2023:
“This report is intended to inform how persons with disabilities understand and perceive climate change, what is their experience of dealing with climate extremes, what is the impact on their health, livelihoods and support system, and their actual level of inclusion in climate adaptation planning.”
- Impact of Climate change on persons with disabilities in Nepal (case study from CBM Global)
- Barriers and Enablers of Persons with Disabilities as Climate Change Agents (Bangladesh and Madagascar, Eleonora Moen, Sept 2022)
- Data & evidence missing on the impact of climate change on persons with disabilities in Bangladesh (CBM Global)
- Story on intersectional climate impacts on disabled people in India (Health Policy Watch)
- Conversation with Carlos Kaiser about inclusive DRR and problematic narratives facing disabled organisers in Latin America (includes transcript).
“And what hurt me a lot is that in every movement, we create some sort of how can I say, elite, the ones that are always invited to the international platform seminars... we are reproducing that oppressive system into the way we are presenting social issues. And that's the problem. The problem is that we are continue having elites so we have the elites of the outcasts... I love what I'm doing. But I'm not the only one. Why cannot women with disabilities be more present? Why cannot be non binary people with disabilities present?... the thing that we need to do is to create community”
- Disability Equity and Disaster Response in the Bahamas. Erin Brown in conversation with Julia Watts Belser for the Disability and Climate Change Archive, 2022.
- Justice Shorter on racial justice and disaster response in the US. In conversation with Julia Watts Belser for the Disability and Climate change Archive, 2022.
Capacity building and disaster preparedness
- Disabled and Undocumented Communities Resisting Ableism and Abandonment during emergencies. Maria R. Palacios in conversation with Julia Watts Belser for the Disability and Climate change Archive, 2022, US.
‘The first thing we need to realize is that it’s not disabled people that need to do more. Because we’re already doing everything we can. At those trainings about emergency preparedness, some man in a three piece suit is always asking, “Do you have extra food? Do you have a way to get out? Do you have this? Do you have that?” They always say, “Have a place to go.” But where am I going to find a wheelchair accessible place to go? If you’re thinking about a hotel, forget that. Who has the resources to pay for a hotel, and for how long? What I want to ask them is, “What are you doing for me?” Not just on paper. Not just some fake evacuation drill that makes them think that they’re prepared. Why don’t you start by implementing programs that include us? Because when we think in terms of disability justice, we have to start with this: Absolutely nobody left behind.’
- Disabled first responder Germán Parodi on community-led disaster response. In conversation with Julia Watts Belser for the disability and climate change Archive, 2022, US Puerto Rico. Gernán Shared experiences as a first responder after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico:
“People with disabilities are often at the margins of disaster response. That’s a real problem… After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, the Centers for Independent Living and emergency management worked in close collaboration on the island to create Core Advisory Groups in every county. In 2020, there was a catastrophic earthquake in the southwest area of the island. But this time, the Core Advisory Groups were collaborating with emergency management. It was a night and day difference from 2017. With the Core Advisory Groups in place, emergency management made effective use of the registry to coordinate and prioritize response. The data shows that when government collaborates with disability organizations during disasters, more lives can be saved.”
- Conversation with Jonathan Craig on bringing creativity to emergency simulation exercises. (Podcast audio only, no transcript. Creative Recovery Network. Australia. 2022.)
- Staying Safe In Dangerous Weather. Tips for disabled people from Bristol disability Equality Forum. UK.
- Disaster preparedness training for disabled people. Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and the Center for Independence. US. Includes video, transcript, accessible slides and checklist. US.
- The Gaibandha model - report on capacity building good practices for persons with disabilities in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh (CBM, 2018)
- Training for Care workers as first responders (California)
- Disability inclusive DRR and emergency response - a good example of training evaluation reports from Kerala, India, (2016 onwards)
- Review of 2022 capacity-building and other activities from Partnership on Inclusive Disaster strategy. (US/international.)
Health impacts also feature strongly elsewhere in the collection, including in Tori Tsui’s work on mental health, pieces below about the medical impacts of heatwaves on disabled people, and other DRR resources on this page which highlight the precarious or non-existent access to healthcare disabled people have access to after disasters.
- Climate change and the right to health of people with disabilities. PJS stein for The Lancet, 2023. Short high-level topic overview.
- Climate Change and the Health of People with Disabilities (EPA, US)
Disability in the Heat - Why authorities need to prioritise people at highest risk as temperatures rise. (Áine Kelly-Costello, Disability Debrief, 2022, India/global.)
“… asking about particular heatwaves was dodging a more pervasive reality. Yes, the heat arrived earlier, considerably reducing wheat yields, and economically impacting farmers livelihoods as well as consumers. Yes, it sent India's average maximum March temperatures the highest they've been in 122 years. But really, living in the ongoing extreme heat as a person with a disability in any location that regularly sees temperatures climbing into the 40s, especially when lacking air conditioning, is a survival skill. Unjustly, it's called upon more and more every year.”
- Risks of extreme heat for people with chronic illness. (Statnews, US, 2022.)
“People of all ages and most geographies will be stressed by heat. Children wind up in the ER much more often on hot days in the warm season than on moderate and cool days, largely due to infections, injuries and neurological concerns. Kids with chronic health conditions, and child athletes are especially at risk during heat waves. [...] And risks often vary greatly by intersecting vulnerabilities. A white, middle-aged American living in New England might be more susceptible during a heat wave than a white, middle-aged American in the South. But [...] How about if the Northeastern office worker has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition affecting the central nervous system, worsened by overheating? What if both of them have high blood pressure, and have been prescribed beta blockers, which can make people more sensitive to heat?"
- Society leaves disabled communities sweltering (Yessenia Funes, Atmos, 2023, global.) “Extreme temperatures can kill anyone, but for disabled people, societal inequities—like income, housing, information access, and isolation—leave them even more susceptible.”
- Worsening heat waves are hammering the disabled community. (Krystal Vasquez, EHN, 2021, Pacific North West.)
- Extreme heat in Canada and Spain: Human Rights Watch documents impact of lack of access to cooling and targeted support. (2021 and 2023.)
- Easy Read story on UK eatwave (Easy News, July 2022)
Fire and environmental pollution
Disabled People Struggle to Evacuate From Wildfires. Amanda Morris, New York Times, 2021.
- A disability should not be a death sentence during a natural disaster. (Krystal Vasquez, EHN, 2021.)
“I have the privilege of studying wildfires—but I often don't have the privilege of escaping them when it matters most. [...] Even though it's been 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, my community is still at risk [...] We need research that identifies who is at highest risk for health complications following smoke exposure. Perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure disabled people are among the scientists, public health officials, and policy makers responsible for these decisions because who better to know what's best for the community than the community members themselves?”
- Disabled people more likely to live in the presence of environmental pollution. Jayajit Chakraborty, h, The Professional Geographer, 2020. Abstract only but can request full text at link.
“individuals with disabilities are experiencing a ‘multiple jeopardy’ defined by the convergence of disability with other social disadvantages such as racial/ethnic minority and elderly status and amplified by their proximity to pollution sources.”
- Wildfires are especially dangerous for people with disabilities, audio and text (Yale climate connection US)
- What it's like to experience a bushfire evacuation while living with a disability. (Even Young, SBS, 2020, Australia.)
Drought and water scarcity
- Inclusive water systems for persons with disabilities are integral for achieving SDGs. Nancy-marangu, Africa Renewal, Kenya, 2023.
- Disability inclusive drought response in Kenya (UNFPA), April 2022
- Factsheet; Disability Inclusion in Drought and Food Crisis Emergency Response (CBM, Handicap International, Kenya Red Cross Society and the Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya, 2011)
Flooding and superstorms
The right to be rescued (includes video, transcript, and additional resources). Rooted in Rights, 2015, US. Ten years after Hurrican Katrina, survivors and disability advocates recount the harrowing experiences of abandonment and the advocacy taking place in the aftermath.”
- Gap between policy pledges and action, on flooding and DRR in Bangladesh. (Matthew “Hezzy” Smith, Bill of Health, 2023.)
“While collaborating with Bangladesh Protibandhi Unnayan Sangstha (BPUS) to deliver flood relief to 350 persons with disabilities in Sunamganj and Sylhet, I spoke to dozens of persons with disabilities and family members who reported not having received other forms of humanitarian aid from the governmental or private groups. In a region that lacked grassroots disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction efforts, local leaders were ill-equipped to implement effectively the national policy imperatives to prioritize flood-affected persons with disabilities. Instead, OPDs, dedicated community organizers, and volunteers had to work hard to close the gaps between governmental policies and on-the-ground realities for flood-affected persons with disabilities.”
- How hurricane Matthew in Haiti impacted disabled people – Emilio Neas, Disability Rights Fund, 2016.
“Roofs of houses and churches blown away, roads blocked, fields and trees destroyed, power grids damaged, utility poles and power lines fallen across houses, gas stations damaged, and many people displaced, among them persons with disabilities—such was the situation in the city of Cayes after Hurricane Matthew struck the southern coast of Haiti. We visited seven temporary shelters, but it was impossible for us to know the number of people housed there… In one of the centers, the supervisor told me there were no people with disabilities there, but we counted seven.”
- Impacts of 2022 Bangladesh flash floods on people with disabilities and older people. Interviews with those impacted including family members of people who died. (Human rights watch, 2023.)
- Stories of disabled people impacted by flooding in New south Wales Australia. Kelly Cox, 2022.
- Flooding impact on disabled people in Kerala (Newzhook, India, August 2020)
- German Flood Deaths Highlight Climate Change Risks for People with Disabilities. Includes multiple examples of disabled and older people dying in nursing and residential homes during disasters. Emina Ćerimović and Katharina Rall, Human Rights Watch, 2021.
- Floods add anguish for people with disability in Kasese (Nile Post, 2021, Uganda)
- Research on effect of Australian flooding during and after floods. Jodie Bailie et al. BMJ), 2022.
- Article on Australian research with tips on not leaving disabled people behind in flooding (The Conversation)
- 'Life or death' for disabled people caught in Auckland floods (Stuff, 2023.)
- Reflections ten years after superstorm sandy (Jason Strother, Lens15, 2022)
- Impacts of the Auckland floods in the blind community. (Áine Kelly-Costello, Focus, 2023.)
- Reporting on impacts of hurricanes on disabled people in New Orleans (Nola)
- Disability care home still in need of repairs four months after Cyclone Gabrielle. (Kate Green, RNZ, Aotearoa New Zealand, 2023.)
- Katrina disabled survivor and care worker tells her story (AP news), October 2022
For more on energy hardship and just transition, see the “Economy, energy and just transition” section.
Texans With Disabilities During Winter Storm Uri – A qualitative study. Angela Frederick, 2022. Documents the experiences of Texas residents with disabilities and families with disabled children who endured Winter Storm Uri and the ensuing blackouts:
“The interviews reveal the hardships people with a wide range of disabilities experienced during this cascading disaster, including the inability to power life-giving medical equipment and the intensification of pain and health problems due to the loss of heat and water. Findings also show that participants were not passive victims in the face of these life-threatening challenges; disabled people and parents of those with severe disabilities went to extraordinary lengths to survive and to help others survive the disaster, including providing and receiving critical forms of care from family and community members during the storm. In addition, the study illuminates the short-term impacts of Winter Storm Uri and its long-term consequences, which some participants were still negotiating a year later.”
- Survival for folks who need #PowerToLive during a power shut off California US, Fat Rose, Access-Centered Movement, and Disability Justice Culture Club, (living document)
- Load shedding life-threatening to people with disabilities (South Africa, Rolling Inspiration)