Persons with disabilities are a vulnerable group and have lower access to services available to them than those without disabilities. And yet, even as the effects of climate change manifest themselves—rendering persons with disabilities more susceptible to poverty and food insecurity, and leaving them unable to be evacuated, among other things—there is a distinct lack of conversation between those working in the disability space and those working in the climate space.

I work with EnAble India, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to fostering the economic independence and dignity of persons with disabilities as well as nurturing the growth of the purple economy (a new economic vision to create equitable opportunities for all citizens, including persons with disabilities). Based on my interactions with persons with disabilities, here are some ways in which they are affected by climate change and extreme climate events:

  1. Impact on physical health
  2. Impact on independent living
  3. Impact on livelihoods

Suggestions for policymakers

  1. Tweak emergency response systems During COVID-19, when wearing masks became compulsory, it was difficult for people from the Deaf community to lip-read. In some cases, this also affected the information they could receive from television broadcasts. This is not an isolated example. A lot of the time, during an emergency, TV channels flash helpline numbers at the bottom of the screen or have someone read them out. However, such dissemination strategies might not work for people with certain kinds of disabilities.
  2. Develop specialised rescue systems As mentioned earlier, supply chains may be affected during emergencies, and for persons with disabilities who live with chronic conditions, this sometimes means not receiving medical care on time. In such situations, the emergency itself poses a smaller threat to them than their own health. So, systems need to be in place to ensure that those who require medication receive it.
  3. Always design for inclusion Often, persons with disabilities are an afterthought when it comes to policymaking and they are not involved in the planning and design process. Steps are taken to include persons with disabilities in policies only when it becomes clear that they have been negatively affected or ignored. This can be seen during climate emergencies but also in everyday life.

Read the full article about persons with disabilities in climate action by Moses Chowdary at India Development Review.