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Disaster management and disability: promoting a research agenda

Date: Poster sessions
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Ashok Hans, Executive Vice President, Shanta Memorial Rehabiliation Centre, India
with Nizni Hans


Disabled people suffer disproportionately during disasters. Disasters not only create impairment, they also further discrimination against already disabled people, compromising the determinants of their health and creating conditions for the worsening of their overall health and well-being. They perpetuate a cycle of poverty and isolation. Understanding these issues is problematic as there is inadequate documentation of the structural, social, financial and cultural barriers to improving the health and well-being of people with disabilities, in general, and during disasters in particular.

This paper will discuss the creation of a research agenda built around the subject, especially prioritizing those issues with policy implications including: 1) Health of already disabled people and responses towards them during disasters; 2) Legislation on existing international standards including: what has been done, what gaps there are, e.g. in sphere project and national legislation; 3) Use of research to effect social change and construct new inclusive, equality-seeking structures; 4) Intersections of social hierarchies and marginalization, exclusion (employment, income, savings, etc.) and other cultural practices that undermine identity/inclusion/rights; 5) Community coping mechanisms; 6) The need for better data and community mapping to know where people are when disasters strike; 7) Time frame for arrival of professionals to help out (e.g. when should psychiatrists get involved ­ before, during, after? How many ­ what ratio needed per person?); 8) Effectiveness of execution of relief efforts, relief coordination/codification etc.; 9) What is already happening around disasters and the need to integrate disability into those efforts; 10) Costing re: inclusion; 11) Intersections of social hierarchies (e.g. gender, poverty, homeless, etc).; 12) Medical interventions vs. social interventions re: disabled persons (when are they needed? How to define which is appropriate and when?).

The paper will prioritize issues that can be taken forward.