Texans with disabilities and chronic illnesses were hit especially hard by the massive grid failure that caused widespread blackouts across Texas, The Verge reports. Failure to account for the needs of those with limited mobility, and those who require electric devices (like powered wheelchairs and feeding tube pumps) are common in disaster response plans. Statewide food and water shortages posed heighted dangers to those with limited mobility. People with spinal cord injuries, for example, can have a hard time regulating their body temperature, making waiting in line for food or water at a distribution point difficult — if they were able to leave their homes at all, given the treacherous conditions during the outages and limitations of paratransit services. At one point, the Living Hope Wheelchair Association in Houston was filling five-gallon jugs from its sink to take to people without water.
In Austin, more than 100 older and disabled residents of a high-rise apartment building were stranded without heat and light and relied on staff and volunteers (some of whom never went home throughout the crisis) to carry food and water up and down the stairs of the 16-story building. “A lot of people in our community, they’re like, ‘I’m so damn tired that I have to be resilient. This isn’t our fault,’” Tomás Aguilar, of the LHWA, which provides services to immigrants with disabilities, told The Verge. “We don’t need a cheerleader. We need water.” (The Verge; Stranded residents: Texas Tribune)