Happy Disability Pride Month! Why Increased Representation of the Disability Community is Important When Addressing Climate Change

A group of Disability rights protesters gather in Ireland to call for the ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). From left to right, the signs held by protestors read:
“We have the right … education”
“Why have we waited so long”
“Ratify CRPD”
“Equal rights” with an image of the international symbol of access
“Ratify the UNCRPD”

Source: Sinn Féin on flickr A protest in Ireland calling for the ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an affirmation that all persons with disabilities are entitled to all human and fundamental rights.

By Teresa Truong, Intern at the Alliance for Sustainability, Northwestern University Student ‘23

Happy Disability Pride Month! A lot of people do not know that July is Disability Pride Month since many disability-related issues often lack coverage and representation in the media. Therefore July, the month when the Americans with Disability Act passed in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, is the perfect time to highlight some of these disability-related issues and to support the disability community. 

How Climate Change Impacts the Disability Community

Our current environmental crisis makes most people’s experiences more difficult, but for some, life becomes a nightmare. Climate change disproportionately affects people with disabilities, but these issues are often overlooked in favor of seeing how the so-called ‘typical’ person is affected. While there is a broad range of how having a disability affects someone’s experience with climate change (because disabilities vary among each individual), here are some examples:

  • People with hearing impairments need different types of alerts (rather than instructions given through sound) for evacuation planning.
  • People with disabilities often have compromised health systems that make them more vulnerable to infectious diseases (which are on the rise due to warming temperatures).
  • People with movement-based disabilities may find it harder to move during required evacuations such as flash floods.

Our current perception of the climate crisis and how it affects our daily lives does not include the voices of those with disabilities. In order to fully address climate change, we need to consider the perspectives of a diverse group of people and understand the different challenges people are navigating during these chaotic times. 

Sustainability for Everyone

In addition to involving the perspectives of the disability community in our action plans in response to climate change events, they should be included in the prevention of further environmental destruction. How can we make sustainability and environmentally-conscious actions more accessible to the disability community? 

The sustainability movement is not just a fight for the environment, but it is a fight for social justice as voices from underrepresented communities are often left out of the conversation. We must protect our planet and also each other, especially those who are more vulnerable, from the impacts of climate change. 

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