By Jonty Ralphsmith
In climate disasters, research shows people with disabilities are four times more likely to die.
The vulnerability of such community members was discussed at a recent disability and climate change workshop held by council.
Disability advocates Lefa Singleton Norton, Jax Brown and Heather Lawson proposed solutions to better include people with a disability in the discussion around climate adaptation.
“The speakers shared stories of the indifferences they, their families and friends had faced during climate change events such as storms, heatwaves and subsequent power outages, Jody Bosman, Director City Planning, Design and Amenity at Greater Dandenong Council said.
“We heard from people with lived experience about the disproportionate impact climate change has on people with a disability.
“Speakers and workshop attendees discussed the lack of specific inclusion of people with disabilities in disaster planning and the lack of consideration for what disabled people will need to cope with during increasing unpredictable and extreme weather conditions.
Greater Dandenong councillor Rhonda Garad was pleased that the workshop took place but said it needed to translate into concrete and clear strategies
“This is what we need to be doing – we need to be using the lens of disability to look at the impacts and put the ground level granular work in place,” she said.
“It is inevitable there will be extreme weather events and often people with a disability live in low quality housing so we need to look at how we accommodate them.”
Ms Norton said sharing knowledge and utilising resources is imperative in protecting people with a disability from the affects of climate change.
Mx Brown said during the rebuild after disasters, universal access to buildings should be embedded into the design.
Cr Garad addressed the issue at a council meeting on Tuesday 14 June.
“We know that people with a disability are more vulnerable to extreme climate events for a range of factors such as housing and a need for transport,” she said.
“What council plans are in place to make sure people with a disability are supported in the event of extreme weather events?”
Cr Garad was told that council had a vulnerable persons register, in collaboration with Victoria Police, with those people able to be contacted in emergencies to ascertain if further assistance is needed.