I would like to request Maria Kett to recall my simple note that was sent on the impact of climate change on persons with disabilities living in coastal area of Nangroe Aceh Darussalam province, Indonesia in 2008 when I used to work for Leonard Cheshire in Banda Aceh on Post Tsunami reconstruction project. In that note I remember having mentioned about my interaction with families of persons with disabilities living in coastal areas who had informed me that the number of days of ‘high tide’ have been increasing over the years and this has impacted their livelihood as they were unable to go out fishing on those days. They had also mentioned that there was increase in skin infections after floods among their family members with disabilities forcing them to spend more on medical treatment. Back in 2008 , the disability dimension was not very much heard or spoken about in climate change events and it is now that the narrative is taking a concrete shape.
While serving as Asst. Commissioner for Disabilities with government of India , I had received complaints under the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 from persons with Multiple Sclerosis working for government/public undertakings who in their petition would request for transfer to places with a cool climatic conditions as they would experience muscle spasticity due to increase in weather temperature. I remember them mentioning in their petitions that their mobility was impacted due to increase in temperature gradually over the years.
Since UN is in the forefront of leading the response to climate crisis, it has a predominant role to play in making the voices of persons with disabilities to be heard on national and international platforms. The UN Sec Gen in his report ‘Disability Inclusion in the United Nations’ 2020 on the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy states that as of 2019, only 16% of the UN entities actually meet the requirements of indicators for disability inclusion within the UN system. UN entities need to garner support for disability -inclusive response to climate change.
While some of the disability specific INGOs are advocating for an inclusive response , OPDs in the south where majority of persons with disabilities live are not proactively engaged in this dialogue with climate change stakeholders. Capacities of the OPDs need to be further enhanced to make their participation meaningful in national and international climate change events.