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Disability and disasters The importance of an inclusive approach to vulnerability & social capital


Disability and disasters The importance of an inclusive approach to vulnerability & social capital


by Fred Smith, Emma Jolley, and Elena Schmidt, SightSavers


This paper outlines the importance of applying a structural approach to vulnerability to disasters and presents evidence on the relationship between disability and disaster-related risks in low and middle income countries. The paper is based on a comprehensive literature review of primary research and identifies four groups of structural factors acting as the pathways to increased vulnerability and inequality: (a) a lack of information and knowledge of disability issues among governments and relief organisations; (b) exclusion of persons with disabilities from disaster management and relief; (c) inaccessibility of physical environments, preparedness measures, shelters and relief aid; and (d) stigma and discrimination. It is followed by evidence of the benefits of disability-inclusive approaches in resource-poor settings. Recommendations arising from the synthesis of evidence and disaster-risk management tools described in the literature emphasise the importance of an inclusive approach; strengthening information systems and building the capacity of disabled people’s organisations and networks. The paper concludes by stressing the importance of a disability-inclusive focus in the post-2015 development framework without which addressing structural inequalities, social exclusion and the rights of persons with disabilities in the disaster context will remain challenging.