Beawar, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2021: People roam at the main market.

Climate-Resilient and Accessible Architecture

By Abhishek Kumar and Kavya Poornima Balajepalli

Climate change is the gravest threat currently faced by human civilization, and our architecture must internalize this reality of our time.

Knowing that the best way to protect people from climate chaos is by tackling inequality, it is critical that our built environment integrate universal design, as lack of accessibility has cascading and compounding impact on vulnerable communities, and especially persons with disabilities.

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Oil refineries polluting carbon and cancer causing smoke stacks climate change and power plants in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Understanding Climate and Disability Justice: Mitigating Structural Barriers to the Right to Health

By Cynthia Golembeski, Ans Irfan, Michael Méndez, Amite Dominick, Rasheera Dopson, and Julie Skarha

People with disabilities — one of the most climate vulnerable groups — are often overlooked before, during, and in the aftermath of disasters.

Structural competency, which accounts for systemic “level determinants, biases, inequities, and blind spots,” is important to mitigating environmental racism and ableism in climate change and disaster policy. To achieve such intersectional approaches, the social determinants of health provide a useful framework. It explains how conditions, forces, and systems, including poverty, discrimination, underlying health disparities, and governance, not only shape daily life but also  vulnerability to climate-induced disasters (Figure 1). Decreasing vulnerability requires understanding and addressing upstream root causes of health inequities.

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Concept of agroforestry and silvopasture, exemplified by grazing cattle in a grove outside Läckö Castle at Lake Vänern, West Gothland, Sweden.

Disability-Inclusive Climate Justice Through Agroforestry

By Pavan Muntha and Chloe Rourke

As climate change is expected to stress the agricultural sector in the coming decades, it is crucial that we transition to climate-smart agricultural practices like agroforestry that build resilience and provide farmers with greater flexibility.

Groups identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as people with disabilities, must be fully included to ensure this transition is successful and its benefits are equitably distributed.

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People on a boat pass supplies to others on a neighboring boat.

Disability-Inclusive Climate Action in Bangladesh: Gaps and Opportunities

Image courtesy of Matthew “Hezzy” Smith.

By Matthew “Hezzy” Smith

Bangladesh, at the frontlines of global climate change, provides a critical litmus test for advocacy to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The disastrous effects of last summer’s historic flooding in the Sunamganj and Sylhet districts on persons with disabilities show that while the country’s laws and policies gesture toward inclusion, considerable gaps remain between policy and practice.

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Empty Classroom In Elementary School With Whiteboard And Desks.

Educating for Disability and Climate Change

By David Liebmann

Children starting kindergarten in 2023 will be 32 years old in 2050, the year the Paris Climate Accord signatories agreed to reach net zero carbon emissions. Those 32-year-olds will have grown up with signs of climate change appearing everywhere around them. They must learn enough in school about the changing global environment to lead themselves and the next generation into a livable future. This education should also incorporate teaching about disability and the disparate impacts of climate change on people with disabilities.

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UN United Nations general assembly building with world flags flying in front - First Avenue, New York City, NY, USA

Disability Participation and Empowerment in the Context of Climate Action: A Human Rights Obligation

By Elisavet Athanasia Alexiadou

States have a human rights obligation to promote the full, meaningful, and informed participation of persons with disabilities in the context of policy-making and decision-making processes about climate change.

This essay seeks to explain the basis for this obligation, outline its scope, and elucidate how states can ensure its fulfillment.

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Diverse individuals having conference video call on tv screen monitor in meeting room.

Climate Resilience Planning: A Life-Saving Entry Point for Incorporating Disability Voices into Policy

By Rafaello Adler-Abramo

Incorporating disability issues into general resilience planning is not only a life-saving necessity, but also a timely opportunity for broader disability inclusion.

Resilience planning is currently expanding and often well-funded. It is expected to vary by locale and populations, so differing needs are assumed. Additionally, much resilience planning is being developed de novo, possibly allowing easier incorporation of disability needs in primary planning, rather than being relegated to “special needs” addenda. This strategy may represent a plausible on-ramp for mainstream incorporation of Disability needs and knowledge.

Recently, I successfully advocated for the incorporation of persons with disabilities’ (PWD) needs into a Massachusetts state-facilitated municipal resilience planning program, in time for their five-year update. While planners’ guidance previously urged attention to needs of numerous groups identified as experiencing heightened vulnerability, PWDs’ specific needs had not yet been included.

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Giant Sea Wall, Jakarta, Indonesia - August 28 2021: A four meters wall built to prevent sea water comes in the inner land due to sea level rise. The fastest sinking city. (Masjid Tenggelam)

Examining the Climate Change-Migration Nexus from a Disability Lens

By Divya Goyal

Growing interest in recognizing and promoting migration as a form of climate adaptation risks exacerbating existing inequalities and generating new ones for disabled people.

Scholars, policymakers, and advocates in this field need to pay greater attention to the impact of climate-induced migration on disabled people, document the experiences of disabled people with climate-induced migration and displacement — with a particular focus on their vulnerabilities and capabilities — and deliberate on strategies to build the adaptive capacity and resilience of disabled people.

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small person standing with megaphone speaking toward an ear with a red "x" over it.

Beyond Vulnerability: Disability, Epistemic Agency, and Climate Action

By Sarah Bell

When considered in climate policy, disabled people are typically homogenized as climate “victims;” a framing that does little to address the social or political conditions that create these circumstances or to recognize the potential contributions of disabled people as knowledgeable agents of change.

This piece highlights the failure to recognize the knowledges of disabled people as a form of epistemic injustice, whereby the capacity of disabled people as knowers or “epistemic agents” that produce, use and/or transmit knowledge is repeatedly misrecognized or undermined.

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Gas stove burner with burning gas. Sale and purchase of gas fuel.

The Public Health Case Against Gas Appliances

By Heather Payne and Jennifer D. Oliva

Gas appliances pose a grave danger to tenant health and safety.

In a forthcoming article, we argue that the mere presence of natural gas appliances in the home renders a dwelling uninhabitable due to their potential health harms. We further contend that tenants should invoke the implied warranty of habitability to eliminate the continued exposure to natural gas appliance-generated indoor air pollutants.

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