Alex Ghenis
Alex Ghenis speaking at a climate change and disability workshop held in 2017. (Image credit: World Institute on Disability video)

Emergency evacuations can be difficult and dangerous, especially for people living with disabilities.

“For say, somebody with a physical disability, you can’t evacuate a building if the power goes out or if there’s a natural disaster because the elevators go down,” Alex Ghenis says.

Ghenis is a policy and research specialist with the World Institute on Disability, a nonprofit that works on disability rights issues.

“I personally have a spinal cord injury that I’ve had for about 15 years now,” he says. “I have no use of my legs. I have limited use of my arms. If there’s a natural disaster, then I’ll need to figure out how to evacuate. I will need to find accessible sheltering, which, you know, emergency shelters are not always readily and fully accessible.”

People with other types of disabilities face different challenges. For example, blind or deaf people may struggle to locate shelters or communicate with emergency personnel.

Ghenis says as climate change makes extreme weather more common, cities and states should work to understand the specific ways that people with disabilities are affected. Then they can develop inclusive preparedness plans that address the needs of everyone.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...