Our in-depth analysis on strengthening disaster resilience through disability-inclusive strategies explores key findings and practical insights from seven countries.
A 2023 report commissioned by a consortium of inclusive development organisations for persons with disabilities and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office highlights the urgent need for adaptive strategies to ensure the safety and inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster response. The report reveals significant insights into Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR).
The report, which focuses on local communities in Colombia, Nicaragua, Uganda, Niger, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Indonesia, was commissioned by Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Deutschland e.V, Centre for Disability in Development, CBM Christian Blind Mission, International Disability Alliance and Malteser International.
Persons with disabilities, who make up 16% of the world's population and 80% of whom live in developing countries, are disproportionately affected by natural hazards, climate-induced disasters and global health crises - emphasizing the continuous consideration of Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction measures at the community level is therefore critical.
The report summarises the findings of the "Barriers and Enablers Assessments” on Disaster Risk Reduction, focusing on local communities that are often among the most rural or remote. The report addresses differentiated challenges and proposes tailored solutions to improve DiDRR. The report's findings are structured into three main sections - Attitudinal, Environmental and Institutional - each offering insights into barriers, opportunities and actionable solutions.
Attitudinal Barriers and Enablers
The assessment reveals pervasive negative attitudes and assumptions towards persons with disabilities are widespread and hinder their safety and inclusion in disaster response efforts. Marginalisation, which particularly affects women with disabilities, is a common theme. However, community support is an important factor that emphasises the importance of raising awareness and promoting understanding. Low-cost solutions, such as the dissemination of accessible information and targeted training, are recommended to break down attitudinal barriers and improve inclusion.
Environmental Barriers and Enablers
The communities in the municipalities assessed face substantial challenges because there are no standardised accessibility features in various areas of their environment. These barriers require attention to diverse needs, including data collection, mapping and accessibility modifications in public spaces used as emergency shelters. It is important to recognise that accessibility solutions that are integrated into internal and external early warning systems or facilities may appear costly depending on their magnitude, they should be viewed as essential, resilient and sustainable solutions in the long term. Compliance with legal requirements in many countries and the demand for collaboration with various actors, including international development collaborations, emphasise the necessity of embracing these measures.
Institutional Barriers and Enablers
Weak internal implementation mechanisms between the local and national levels pose institutional barriers to effective Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction, or a simple lack of information sharing within departments exacerbates these challenges. Resource constraints further compound these difficulties. Collaboration with local organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) is a key enabler; however, capacity gaps should be recognised and adequately addressed. The report calls for mainstreaming DRR through human resources, planning and budgeting and the strengthening disability-focused departments. It is well observed that this process starts with collecting and analysing data on the differentiated needs of persons with disabilities, using the recommended Washington Group Set of Questions.
Regional nuances in Africa, Asia and the Americas are highlighted and the need for adaptive strategies emphasised. The report concludes with key recommendations urging governments to lead proactive DiDRR efforts and calling on practitioners to consider the diverse needs of persons with disabilities and to actively involve persons with disabilities in disaster planning and response.