/ / Insight



With International Day of Persons with Disabilities being celebrated on 3 December 2020, it brings with it a timely reminder to explore disaster management in relation to persons with disabilities across ASEAN. While different populations face similar risks of exposure to the impacts of disaster, the vulnerability of communities such as persons with disabilities can be much greater.

Increased vulnerability is related to socio-economic conditions, civic and social empowerment, and access to mitigation and relief resources for persons with disabilities, and see them disproportionately affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations. This is usually due to inaccessible evacuation practices, disaster response actions (including shelters, camps, and food distribution), and then ongoing recovery efforts.

Findings reveal that persons with disabilities are more likely to be left behind or abandoned during evacuation in disasters and conflict, which is often due to a lack of inclusive preparation and planning, as well as inaccessible facilities and services, and transportation systems. Most shelters and refugee camps are not accessible, and people with disabilities are many times even turned away from shelters and refugees camps due to a perception that they require “complex” medical services.

Disruption to overall physical, social, economic, and environmental networks and support systems affect persons with disabilities much more than the general population. There is also a potential for discrimination on the basis of disability when resources are scarce. Furthermore, the needs of persons with disabilities continue to be excluded through the longer-term recovery and reconstruction efforts, thus missing another opportunity to ensure that cities are accessible and inclusively resilient to future disasters.

Mainstreaming disability into emergency responses and preparedness, by making disability issues and persons with disabilities visible in national and international actions plans and policies, is essential to ensure equality and human rights for all. Studies show that including the needs and voices of persons with disabilities within all stages of the disaster management process – especially during planning and preparedness – can significantly reduce their vulnerability, and increase the effectiveness of government response and recovery efforts.

However, despite an increasing worldwide focus on disaster risk reduction as opposed to disaster response, most city and related government agencies fail to adequately plan for – or include – persons with disabilities in their disaster management activities. Rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts must not only be inclusive and responsive to the needs of all people, including persons with disabilities, but should include the participation of persons with disabilities, to ensure that their needs and rights are respected. Women with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable group whose needs should be included at all stages of recovery and reconstruction efforts.


This article is adapted from: https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/