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Disability Responsive Disaster Management

Prof.Sudesh Mukhopadhyay
Independent Consultant
Former Head, Dept. of Inclusive
education, NUEPA, New Delhi
0989906827 1
Disability, Natural Disasters and Emergency
A Need to be Inclusive & Responsive

• Different populations may face similar risks of

exposure to the negative effects of environmental and
man-made disasters, but their actual vulnerability is
dependent on their socio-economic conditions, civic
and social empowerment, and access to mitigation and
relief resources.
• Individuals with disabilities are disproportionately
affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations
due to inaccessible evacuation, response (including
shelters, camps, and food distribution), and recovery
Disability, natural disasters and emergency situations:
United Nations Enable Newsletter
Accessed on 17 July 2011
• The Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and other
recent emergency situations have drawn particular
attention to the plight of persons with disabilities in
emergency situations. In Haiti, approximately
200,000 people are expected to live with long-term
disabilities as a result of injuries. 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.
International Disability Rights Monitor:
Disability and Early Tsunami Relief Efforts In India, Indonesia and Thailand,
International Disability Network, Chicago , Sept. 2005


that a majority of people with disabilities did not survive the
disaster. Dr. S.P. Saha, Head of the Orthopedic Department at
the G.B. Pant Hospital in Port Blair, South Andaman, reported
that a few years ago there were 700 people with disabilities
resulting from a polio epidemic in Car Nicobar. However, when
he visited the area three days after the tsunami, he could not
locate a single person with a disability. He stated that “they
may be dead, as they may not have been able to run up to the
hills to save their lives. Those who could run have survived.”

Disability in Emergencies and Conflicts –
‘Reaching the most vulnerable’
Chair: Ann-Marit Sæbønes, Special Advisor to the UN Special
Rapporteur on Disability , Oslo, 31 May 2011
Chair’s Summary-1 (Extracts)

• It is essential that the principles of non-

discrimination of persons with disabilities are
effectively incorporated into all measure taken
to design, plan and implement policies and
programmes related to situations of risk;

Chair’s Summary-2 (Extracts)
•All work to strengthen the protection and participation of women in
emergencies and humanitarian crises must include women with
disabilities in order to be effective and reach all. This requires that
gender analysis, which is a natural part of assessments, addresses
the different needs, interests and challenges of women/girls and
men/boys with disabilities;

• There is a specific need to protect women and girls with

disabilities from being subjected to multiple or aggravated forms of
discrimination as well as sexual exploitation and abuse in situations of

•Children with disabilities are at increased risk during and after

emergencies and crises. Special attention must be paid to meeting
their needs and securing their rights, especially their right and access
to education on the same basis as other children.

Chair’s Summary-3 (Extracts)
18. The physical environment, including camp security, location
and layout, the venues providing humanitarian assistance, the
provision of goods and services, and the information provided must
be designed, built and implemented in accordance with the principle
of universal design;

19. Persons with disabilities and their representative

organisations must be consulted and empowered to participate
in the design, planning and implementation of policies, programmes,
services and the response to disaster, relief, early recovery and
reconstruction, both after and in preparation for situations of risk.
One example that was mentioned is the importance of having DPOs in
UN clusters. This is of vital importance in order to have the desired
effect and results on the ground and to meet people’s real needs.
Ministerial Declaration, July 2010

Please Remember
Persons with disability are also affected by:
• Socio- economic conditions
• All may not be educated
• Rural- urban and geographical locations do
impact their accessibility
• They are the most vulnerable people due to
multiple disadvantages
• They too have a voice and can participate
It is their right to lead a life of dignity; hence
we have an obligation to be responsive 8
Understanding Disabilities
• A disability is defined as a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits or restricts
the condition, manner, or duration under which
an average person in the population can perform
a major life activity, such as walking, seeing,
hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working,
or taking care of oneself.

Mobility Impairment
• A condition limiting physical ability; generally
considered to include lack of a limb or loss of
limb use due to disease, amputation, paralysis,
injury, or developmental condition; or limitation
of movement due to cardiovascular or other
• Please note that although visual or hearing
impairments and cognitive disabilities can
hamper ease of travel, people with sensory or
cognitive impairments are not termed people
with mobility impairments 10
Tips For Persons Who Use Wheelchairs

 Preparedness kits should include:

 Heavy gloves for making your way over glass or debris.
 Extra battery for electric wheelchairs.
 Patch kit for punctured wheels.
 Store a lightweight manual wheelchair, if available.
 Arrange and secure furniture and other items to provide barrier
free paths of travel.
 In earthquakes, once in a safe and protected place, lock wheels,
bend over your knees and cover your head.
 If a small stair landing is chosen as the area of refuge, consider
waiting until heavy traffic has passed before entering.
 If you are in bed or out of your wheelchair, seek cover under the
bed, a desk or table. 11
Hearing Impairments
• The scale of hearing impairment ranges from mild hearing
loss to profound deafness, the point at which the
individual receives no benefit from aural input
• . Many hard-of-hearing persons are able to use residual
hearing effectively with the assistance of hearing aids (HA)
or other sound amplification devices, often augmented by
lip reading.
• Hearing aids amplify background noises as well as voices,
so noise caused by emergency conditions (alarm bells,
people shouting, sirens, etc.) may rise to an
uncomfortable level for the person with the hearing
impairment 12
Tips For Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing
Preparedness kits should include:
Pen and paper and a flashlight to communicate in
the dark.
Extra hearing aid batteries.
Batteries for equipments being used and light
phone signaler.
Install both audible and visual smoke alarms in
your office and home.
Be careful of falling things as you leave a building.
Vision Impairments
• A person with vision impairment may be totally
or legally blind.
• Legally blind implies that a person may be able to
differentiate between light and dark or see very
large objects, but may not be able to see anything
clearly enough to depend on their vision in an
emergency situation.
• This can also include persons with low vision who
can see well enough to walk but cannot read
without magnification 14
Tips For Persons Who Are Blind Or
Have Low Vision
When preparing your evacuation plan ask for needed information
in alternate formats if needed, such as building evacuation
 Know where the nearest telephones and alarm boxes are located.
 Know how to describe your location.
 Disaster supplies kit should include:
• Extra folding white cane.
• Heavy gloves for feeling your way over glass or debris.
• Colored cape or poncho worn for visibility by others.
 Know where nearby emergency medical kits are located.
 Mark emergency supplies with large print or Braille, if helpful.
 Make sure evacuation signage is adequately marked for your needs. Practice
your evacuation route periodically both with your service animal and white
 Be cautious of obstructions and falling objects during an earthquake.
Tips For Persons With A Service
 Include instructions in your plan for service animals.
 Some dogs fear metal grated steps. If your
evacuation route has these kinds of steps, get your
dog accustomed to the route.
 If the only stair rail is on your left side where a
service dog should typically be, accustom the dog to
heeling down the right side if you do not intend to
work the dog on the steps.
 Be cautioned that if a dog typically stops at each new
flight others behind you may panic. Heeling the dog
may be safer in some instances.
Intellectual/Cognitive Impairment
• A cognitive impairment is defined as the
deterioration of conscious intellectual
• Symptoms may include short- or long-term
memory impairment, impaired judgment,
difficulty managing routine tasks,
disorientation to time and place, fearfulness
• Paranoia, wandering, and repetitive actions
Tips For Persons With Learning
 When you make your plan for an evacuation,
 Ask for information in alternate formats if needed.
 Review general building evacuation guidelines and ask
questions if you do not understand something.
 See if your evacuation routes have signage that is easy to
 Ask someone to guide you during an evacuation if you feel
you need help.
 Ask someone to write down information if you have a hard
time understanding oral directions.
 Practice your evacuation route(s) regularly, such as every 2
Tips For Persons With Limited

 Determine how you will best communicate with

others during an emergency.
 Consider having evacuation and emergency
instructions written down on a card, carried at all
times, and placed in an easy to view location.
 Have batteries or chargers for communication
equipment in preparedness kit.

Tips For Persons With Psychological
• Preparedness kit should include at least 3 days
worth of needed medication.
• When developing plan, consider strategies to
reduce stress of the emergency by
– Identifying areas of rescue that have two-way
communications devices.
– Making sure directional signage for exits and
designated area of refuge in your planned
evacuation route is adequate enough to assist
Tips For Persons With Developmental
• When you plan for an evacuation,
– Review general building evacuation guidelines and ask
questions if you do not understand something.
– Request evacuation and emergency information in
alternate formats if needed.
• Make sure that your evacuation routes have signage that is
easy to follow.
• Ask someone to guide you during an evacuation if you feel
you need help.
• Practice your evacuation route(s) regularly, such as every 2

Tips For Persons With Medical Conditions

Medical conditions include, for example,

pregnancy, respiratory or cardiac problems.
 Ask for assistance walking down stairs.
Find ways to reduce stress, exertion, and
exposure to dust or smoke.
Remember to bring medication or inhalers
when evacuating.
 Consider taking rest periods during
evacuation if possible.
• "Multiple disabilities" means concomitant
impairments (combination of cognitive, physical
and/or sensory disabilities);
• The combination of which causes such severe
developmental/educational needs that they
cannot be accommodated in special education
programs solely for one of the impairments.

Multiple Disabilities-2
May be characterized by the following -
• Limited use of functional communication skills;
• Dependence on others for most or all daily living
• Minimal social interaction skills and possible
maladaptive behaviors exhibited;
• Pronounced delays in motor development; and/or
• E. Fragile medical conditions.
Red Cross Guidelines Disaster Preparedness for Persons with
1. Make an emergency information list. Include—
• Medical and emergency contact information.
• Emergency out-of-town contacts.
• Names and numbers of everyone in your network.
• Name and number of a relative or friend who lives more than 100 miles away from
• If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information
list notes the best way to communicate with you.
2. Fill out a medical information list. Include information about—
• Medical providers.
• Medications you use.
• Adaptive equipment and/or body system support equipment you use.
• Allergies and sensitivities.
• Communication or cognitive difficulties.
Red Cross Guidelines Disaster Preparedness for Persons with

3. Attach copies of health insurance cards and related information to your

medical information list.
4. Keep at least a seven-day supply of essential medications with you at all
5. Have extra copies of prescriptions.
6. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about what you should do if you do
not have enough medicine after a disaster. Also, find out the shelf life of
your medication and the storage temperature it needs.
7. Determine how often you should replace stored medication.
8. Identify safe places to go to during an— Earthquake/ Tornado/
Flood/ Fire etc.
9. Install at least one smoke detector on each level of your home, outside
sleeping areas.
Red Cross Guidelines Disaster Preparedness for Persons with
10. Find the location of utility cutoff valves and switches. Become familiar with
how to operate them.
11. Identify as many exits as possible (but at least two) from each room and from
the building you are in.
12. Make a floor plan of your home. You may want your network to help you do
this. Include your primary escape routes.
13. Practice using different ways out of a building, especially if you are above the
first floor in a building with many stories.
14. Decide what type of equipment you will need for assistance during an
15. Be ready to give brief, clear, specific instructions and directions to rescue
16. If you do not drive, talk with your network about how you will leave the area
if authorities advise an evacuation

Red Cross Guidelines Disaster Preparedness for Persons with

17. Ask your local emergency management office if transportation services

are available to persons with your disability during an emergency
evacuation. Find out how to arrange to get this service.
18. Become familiar with the emergency or disaster evacuation plan for
your office, school, or any other location where you spend a lot of time.
19. Choose an alternate place to stay.
20. Have a care plan for your pet.
21. Have a care plan for your service animal.
22. There are six basics you should stock for your home: a) water, b) food, c)
first aid supplies, 4) clothing and bedding, e) tools and emergency
supplies, and f) special items.
Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an
easy-to-carry container.

Exemplars of Disaster

Common Natural Disasters in
Flood Prone areas

Vulnerabilities of community & persons
with disabilities

Vulnerabilities of community
& persons with disabilities

Socio-economic conditions

Physical environment

Information and

• Inaccessible Early Warning System

• Reliance on others (i.e. family members, caregivers,
neighbours, volunteers, rescue & emergency workers,
• Lack of information about persons with disabilities as
they are not included in Capacity and Risk Assessment
system. 37
Emergency Response
• Invisible in emergency registration system.
• Need of persons with disabilities are not considered in relief
• They tend to be invisible during disasters.
• Rescue and evacuation systems are not disability inclusive

Many of the worst affected areas are cut off, complicating relief
Roads are blocked, power and phone lines down.

Photo Source:
CDD and Disaster Risk Reduction- An
Exemplar of NGO Work
• Initially CDD( Bangladesh) mainly worked on
emergency relief,

• 30,000 persons with disabilities and their families

assisted through emergency relief in 2007 and 2008,

• But people supported are still vulnerable for any

disaster situation.

Continued …..

Disaster Relief Certain Growth Disaster Falls further

• Hence relief is not the answer!

Initiated Disability Inclusive DRR as pilot
project with CBM support in 2009 for
capturing lessons learnt and best practice

Areas of Project Intervention

Mobilization and Capacity
Awareness Building
Capacity & Risk

Advocacy and Livelihood Cross Cutting

Coordination Issues

Major actions
• Feasibility
• Stakeholder and beneficiary linkages
• Formation of Ward Disaster Management
• Task Forces on Early warning sign, Search, rescue
and evacuation, First aid, Damage assessment and
Water and sanitation

• Counseling, information provision and training for

persons with disabilities to boost their confidence to
participate in DRR activities.

• Capacity development of stakeholders (WDMC,

UDMC, Teachers) on DiDRR
Continued …..

• Capacity and Risk Assessment (CRA) &

Contingency planning(CP)

Persons with disabilities and community were first

trained and then they lead the CRA and CP process.
Input of persons with disabilities were taken at all
process. The CP were validated in open meeting with
local government.

Continued …..

• Awareness Raising
(Mock drill, Street theatre, Poster, Bill
board, Road side stand board, court-
yard meetings)
It contributed towards a
disability friendly

Continued …..
• Small scale mitigation:
– Disability friendly and accessible for persons with
• Flood shelter – Shelter management committee formed with
persons with disabilities. Special attention to persons with
disabilities, women, children and old age people.
• Houses, tube-wells and toilets for persons with disabilities

• Houses, tube-wells and toilets
made accessible for persons
with disabilities

Continued …..
• Accessible Early warning, rescue and
– Flag pole, color pillars for water level, and
announcements by ,
– Community people and persons with
disabilities trained to understand and
disseminate early warning

Volunteers identified to inform and rescue persons
with disabilities

Accessible Rescue Boat constructed for evacuation

Continued …..
• Disaster risk considered livelihood
Livelihood training and asset transfer to persons with
disabilities, allowing them to be engaged throughout the

This has increased respect of persons with disabilities within
family and community..

Continued …..

• Special needs services

– Therapy, assistive devices and referral
– Increased functional capacity of persons with disabilities
and increased their mobility that positively influenced
their scale of participation in DRR activities

Continued …..
• Advocacy & linkages
– Local level (Union council, Sub-district council) and National level
– Persons with disabilities from community participated and shared
their life experiences and raised their voice for demand inclusion of
disability issues into all phases of disaster management

Continued …..

• Good practices and lesson learnt

– Baseline and after project study allowed documentation
of changes, good practices and lessons learnt.
– Video documentary and print documents disseminated to
concerned actors.

Good practices and
lessons learnt

Ward disaster management committees &
task forces
• There were no disaster management committee at ward
(community) level
• It is formed by community participation
• Each committee comprised with 25 members where at least
30% are women and 10% member are persons with
• Each committee has five task forces i.e. Early warning sign;
Search, rescue and evacuation; First aid; Damage assessment
and Water and sanitation. Persons with disabilities are
• They identified their vulnerabilities and capacities. Based on
that they made their contingency plan.
• They take initiative if there is any disaster in the community.

Continued …..

• The WDMC is a critical structure at the ward level for many

– provides local context disaster response,
– local representation,
– a structure for sustainability,
– a link to the local government structure,
– the representation of women and disability inclusion,
– provides volunteerism opportunities

Local govt. support
• Union council committed to allocate fund for continuation of
DiDRR work in the community

• Union council acknowledged WDMC as a community

structure and will encourage their participation in local
development planning on disability and disaster issues

• They have included persons with disabilities in the Union

Disaster Management Committee

• Local govt. is facilitating linkages of the WDMC with local


• They have list of persons with disabilities and can quickly

respond during & after disaster
Continued …..

• It was possible to get their support by involving them in

various activities from the beginning of the project initiation:
– taking their opinions into consideration,
– orient them on DiDRR,
– visible support for persons with disabilities and the
community people

Community Support
• People from the community gave soil and land to raise the
plinth of two flood shelters.

• Most of the community people are now willing to include

persons with disabilities into all social and development

• Community are mobilized and expressed readiness to lead

DiDRR activities even at end of project support.

• Neighbors are sensitized and trained to support persons

with disabilities and their families in disaster situation

• Local trained teachers are willing to extend support on DRR

activities and to persons with disabilities.
Accessibility demonstration
• Community people and local development actors got idea
about accessibility issues seeing accessible flood shelters,
houses, latrines, tube-wells, boat.

• They acknowledge the need for accessibility in all structures

and realizes that it will benefit all and not only persons with

Participation of persons with disabilities
• Persons with disabilities are members of different

• They are active in local awareness raising, advocacy with

local government, and all DiDRR activities.

• They have clearly demonstrated that if opportunities are

provided, if respect & dignity is there, they can be an equal
contributor as any other citizen of the country.

• At the beginning it was difficult to convince local community
why DiDRR is required and how it can benefit all members of
the community.

• Initially it was difficult to include persons with different

disabilities, especially women with disabilities in
implementation process. They lacked in confidence. This was
the result of years of exclusion and lack of opportunities.
They were mostly seen as recipients rather than valued
contributors. But this perception has been changed within
project period.

Continued …..

• Local means of transportation and road conditions is a major

barrier to participation by persons with disabilities. This is
worse in rainy season.

• The process from sensitization to practice is time consuming.

It is a huge challenge to make this shift within a certain time.

• The target group require hands on support for a longer time

for them to comprehend DiDRR and to transform that
understanding into action.

Concerns to Be Noted for Development
Assistance Program
• Bridging the gab between
Rich Top Levels

Poor Grassroots

• The traditional model for the service delivery.

Available in
Expensive Vertical
urban areas.