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Disability inclusion and disaster risk reduction: overcoming barriers to progress

Briefing/policy papers

Written by John Twigg, Emma Lovell

Disasters have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, who are at higher risk of death, injury and loss of property. Although the rights and needs of people with disabilities in disasters are increasingly being addressed through policies, standards and guidelines, much more needs to be done to remove the barriers to their inclusion in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and response.

Effective institutions with supportive attitudes, structures and systems, backed up by good evidence, are key to meaningful disability inclusion. Human rights-based approaches have the potential to lead to a major shift in institutional policy and practice towards disability.

Disability advocates and disabled people’s organisations can also play a significant role in disaster policy, planning and interventions, but formal disaster agencies tend to have limited interaction or collaboration with them.

This briefing note identifies five key challenges that need to be addressed in order to promote disability inclusion in DRR and humanitarian action, relating to evidence and data, contextual understanding, institutions and programmes, representation and discrimination. It highlights the importance of rights-based approaches, together with improved standards and indicators, in overcoming these challenges.

Young girl in an evacuation centre, 2009. Philippines. Photo: Jerome Ascano/World Bank
John Twigg, Maria Kett and Emma Lovell