The Link Between Disability Inclusion and Climate Change

June 1, 2021

As we mark National AccessAbility Week, May 30-June 5, Foresight recognizes how global climate change exponentially impacts persons with disabilities. This is a significant issue: an estimated 15% of the world’s population - one billion people - live with disabilities, according to the United Nations Flagship Report on Disability and Development.

When you think of the damage any extreme weather event can have, individuals with sensory or mobility related challenges are often among those facing the greatest obstacles. When infectious diseases, evacuations, or migrations impact a region, those with the ability to move freely, and safely find shelter are those who will be most fortunate. 

Climate change disproportionately affects people with disabilities because of  “inherent vulnerabilities and limited access to knowledge”, according to a 2019 Science article by Aleksandra Kosanic et al. And unfortunately, poverty can be a compounding factor. More than 20% of the poorest people worldwide are people with disabilities, and 82% of persons with disabilities in developing countries live below the poverty line, according to The World Report on Disability. This leaves those persons with disabilities often forced to live in areas with worse quality of air, and increased risks of weather related events.

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region with one of the worst floods in American history in 2005, the National Council on Disability reported that 155,000 people with visual to physical impairments and learning disabilities were negatively impacted.   

One solution, from CBM, Christian Blind Mission, addresses ending the “cycle of poverty and disability”. This includes ensuring disability inclusion is a key criterion in climate funds. Emergency programs need to include planning for everyone when it comes to areas impacted by climate change as well as creating a movement of action and understanding so persons with disabilities are included in the discussion around climate change. 

Another solution is addressing climate change by energizing innovation for an inclusive future. Foresight is working hard to support a transition to a green economy - to the advantage of our global community.