In the recent issue of Science Magazine, a group of researchers — Aleksandra Kosanic, Jan Petzold, Amy Dunham and Mialy Razanajatovo —wrote a letter to inform readers of that climate change disproportionally affects the disability community.
Among other things, disabled people may have “limited access to knowledge, resources and services to effectively respond to environmental change,” wrote the researchers.
“Compromised health may make people more vulnerable to extreme climate events, ecosystem services loss, or infectious disease exposure, and those with disabilities are more likely to have difficulties during required evacuations or migrations,” the authors state.
People with disabilities have been living with the consequences of climate change just as long as the rest of the population. However, the disability community is the most vulnerable to the rapidly occurring wildfires, hurricanes and air pollution since many of them live with already compromised health conditions and limited mobility.
As the authors cited, roughly 155,000 people with disabilities and the elderly were affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, one of the worst flood disasters in U.S. history. Survivors had conditions including visual and physical impairment and learning disabilities. Nearly half of deaths from this natural disaster were people over age 75 (even though they only represented less than 6% of the population in the area), with over 10% of total deaths occurring in nursing homes. Most of those individuals had medical conditions and disabilities that made them vulnerable.