People with disabilities are disproportionately more likely to suffer major hardship because of extreme weather disasters and are far less likely to return home afterward, new Census Bureau data released Thursday shows. People with disabilities are forced to evacuate at rates wildly higher than the general population — about 21% of blind adults and nearly 31% of adults unable to care for themselves, compared to just 1% of the general adult population, have had to evacuate.
Once evacuated, the conditions in which disabled people are forced to live are often repugnant — 70% of deaf evacuees reported living in unsanitary conditions a month after a disaster (compared to 7% of hearing people) and more than 74% of people unable to walk reported a lack of food one month after a disaster (compared to just 9% of people who could walk). Finally, people with disabilities are far more likely to be permanently displaced by a disaster, with 59% of deaf evacuees reporting they never returned home, more than four times the rate of hearing evacuees. The data, though shocking, is unsurprising to advocates. “This is completely in alignment with things we have noted over several years now regarding individuals with disabilities and disasters,” said Justice Shorter, a disaster adviser for the National Disability Rights Network.
Institutionalization more frequent
“It’s because of how easily people end up being institutionalized,” explained Justice Shorter, a disaster adviser for the National Disability Rights Network. “People are transitioned into facility-based settings, and it’s far more difficult to get back out of them.” Shorter added “I hope that this will allow people to open the door a bit wider and assure that people with disabilities are a central force in creating and cultivating more inclusive disaster planning and protection across this country. … They are indeed the folks who are most impacted.” (E&E News)