Disability and disasters

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Natural and man-made disasters tend to have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. This issue is recognised and addressed by Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states:

"States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters."[1]


There is limited research knowledge, but many anecdotal reports, on what happens when disasters impact people with disabilities.[2][3] Individuals with disabilities may be greatly affected by natural disasters.[2][4] Those with physical disabilities can be at risk when evacuating if assistance is not available. Individuals with cognitive impairments may struggle with understanding instructions that must be followed in the event a disaster occurs.[4][5][6] Those who are blind, hearing impaired, etc. may have difficulty communicating during the emergency. All of these factors can increase the degree of variation of risk in disaster situations with disabled individuals.[7]


Some research studies have found discrimination against individuals with disabilities during all phases of the disaster cycle.[2] The most common limitation is that people cannot physically access buildings or transport, as well as access disaster-related services.[2] The exclusion of these individuals is caused in part by the lack of disability-related training provided to emergency planners and disaster relief personnel.[8]

Disability in disaster management planning[edit]

Disability as a factor in disaster planning is an issue that is receiving attention from some disaster management jurisdictions while various disability rights organizations are active in lobbying and education efforts for authorities to include the needs of disabled members of the public in their planning.[9][10][11][12][13] The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has influenced initiatives like The Sphere Project to include more disability related guidelines and recognise the different approaches required for different disabilities. [14] In rural and lower income countries and areas, there is a gap between those who need financial and human resources and those who need it, thus those with disability do not receive the services that they need.[15]


  1. ^ "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". .ohchr.org. 2007-03-30. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  2. ^ a b c d "Children With Disabilities in the Context of Disaster: A Social Vulnerability Perspective" (PDF). Child Development. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
  3. ^ "Disaster Case Management and Individuals With Disabilities" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-01-31.
  4. ^ a b Stough, Laura M. (2009). "Chapter 15: The Effects of Disaster on the Mental Health of Individuals with Disabilities". In Neria, Yuval; Galea, Sandro; Norris, Fran H. (eds.). Mental Health and Disasters. Cambridge University Press. pp. 264–276. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511730030.015. hdl:1969.1/153544. ISBN 9780511730030.
  5. ^ McAdams, Ducy, E.; Stough, L. M.; Clark, M. C. (2012). "Choosing Agency in the Midst of Vulnerability: Using Critical Disability Theory to Examine a Disaster Narrative". In Cannella, Gaile Sloan; Steinberg, Shirley R. (eds.). Critical Qualitative Research Reader. Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4331-0688-0.
  6. ^ McAdams Ducy, Elizabeth; Stough, Laura M. (2011-07-29). "Exploring the support role of special education teachers after Hurricane Ike: Children with significant disabilities". Journal of Family Issues. 32 (10): 1325–1345. doi:10.1177/0192513X11412494.
  7. ^ "Effective Emergency Management: Making Improvements for Communities and People with Disabilities: National Council on Disability". Ncd.gov. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  8. ^ "UN Enable - Disability, natural disasters and emergency situations". Un.org. 2011-05-31. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  9. ^ Project REDD at Texas A&M University http://redd.tamu.edu/project-redd-research-and-education-on-disability-and-disaster
  10. ^ "Disability sensitivity in disaster management". Practical Action. Retrieved 2013-02-01.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Mainstreaming Disability into Disaster Risk Reduction: A Training Manual" (PDF). Handicap International. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  12. ^ "Disaster Management". Napas.org. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  13. ^ Jagger, Jessica Carol. "ProQuest Document View - Disaster Management Policy and People with Disabilities in the United States and Jamaica". Gradworks.umi.com. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  14. ^ Stough, Laura M. (2015-06-01). "World Report on Disability, Intellectual Disabilities, and Disaster Preparedness: Costa Rica as a Case Example". Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities. 12 (2): 138–146. doi:10.1111/jppi.12116. hdl:1969.1/154421. ISSN 1741-1130.
  15. ^ "The 2015 Nepal Earthquake(s): Lessons Learned From the Disability and Rehab...: Discover". eds.b.ebscohost.com. Retrieved 2017-10-24.