By Jenna Martinez, ATI Advocacy Intern

March 29, 2024 



Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22nd to emphasize the importance of maintaining a safe and clean environment on Earth. Climate change is a very real threat that disproportionately affects people with disabilities. A study prepared for the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction found that individuals with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die or be critically injured during disaster situations. Additionally, most people with disabilities who experience natural disasters never return home. To prevent negative health effects such as heat/water illness and injury and death, it is important that people with disabilities are made aware of the possible impacts and create a plan targeted towards climate change and natural disasters.

According to the United Nations, fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are the largest contributors to climate change on Earth. As the emissions trap the sun’s heat on Earth, the planet begins to warm faster and faster. Big industry corporations such as manufacturing plants produce these emissions from fossil fuels when making things like iron, electronics, steel, clothing, plastics, and cement. The machines used to make these items typically run on even more fossil fuels. The manufacturing industry is one of the largest contributors to these emissions across the globe.

It is vital that we all do what we can to cut down on fossil fuel emissions, by changing small things in our everyday routine.  According to Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP), some things we can do to cut down on fossil fuel emissions include:

  • Carpooling/using alternatives to driving
  • Avoiding traffic areas
  • Avoid flying as much as possible
  • Insulate your homes
  • Turning off lights when not in use
  • Adding solar panels to the home

People with disabilities face a higher risk of injury and death from the effects of climate change. With intense and high changes in temperature, people with disabilities may fall ill due to the inability to regulate body temperature. Those in temporary housing or low-income situations may be misplaced due to natural disasters, which can cause great financial strain and stress. They may also be forced to stay home, which can further cause distress and mental health issues due to isolation. It is important to know how people with disabilities can protect themselves and be prepared for weather-related events. Getting involved in legislation surrounding climate action can help legislators recognize the need for the inclusion of people with disabilities in their policies. One of the most effective things a person with a disability can do to protect themselves is to create an emergency checklist in case of a climate change event or natural disaster. The American Red Cross suggests:

  • Creating a support network of multiple people who know you and your needs and who can help during a climate crisis event.
  • Consider daily living needs such as personal care, water service, adaptive feeding devices, and electricity-dependent equipment. Create a plan on how to continue usage of these items during a natural disaster.
  • Choose a contact person out of your town to have someone to inform of your whereabouts after the event.
  • For those who use electronic wheelchairs/scooters, have a manual device on hand.
  • Be aware of all possible accessible exits.
  • Be stocked with non-perishable food and water.
  • Consider purchasing a medical alert system in case evacuation is not obtainable.
  • Follow news outlets closely to possibly evacuate before the event occurs.

The effects of climate change can be stressful and scary, especially for those with disabilities. Ensuring you have an emergency checklist and plan in place can help alleviate these worries and help you feel more prepared in case a weather event occurs. Here at ATI, we are always available to help anyone create an emergency checklist and plan, just stop by or give us a call!

Get Involved!

You can stop by ATI to learn more about the climate change impact and to get help in creating your own emergency checklist/plan. To extend your knowledge of the effects of climate change on people with disabilities, check out this video on YouTube.