Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction

When a disaster takes place, persons with disabilities are approximately two to four times more likely to die than the general population. But disability perspectives are seldom included in legal frameworks, policies and action plans for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Moreover, physical infrastructure and disaster response services do not incorporate accessibility design principles; public service announcements are often issued in inaccessible formats; and shelters and other facilities are not usually barrier-free.

To promote the importance of including disability rights in DRR negotiations, Rehabilitation International, along with United Nations ESCAP and the Nippon Foundation, co-organized the Asia-Pacific Meeting on Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place in Sendai, Japan in April 2014. At the meeting, the parties developed the Sendai Statement to Promote Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilient, Inclusive and Equitable Societies in Asia and the Pacific, which listed 14 specific actions to be taken by Governments, UN entities and development cooperation agencies, as well as four strategic action points for taking forward disability inclusion into the post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework. It coalesced the voices of 130 experts on disaster risk reduction and disability policy, as well as representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities from more than 15 countries.

As a result of the Sendai Statement, Resolution 69/283, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030  – adopted by the UN General Assembly on 3 June 2015 – included language specifically calling for a broader and a more people-centred preventive approach to disaster risk. “Disaster risk reduction practices need to be multi-hazard and multisectoral, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective. While recognizing their leading, regulatory and coordination role, Governments should engage with relevant stakeholders, including women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, poor people, migrants, indigenous peoples, volunteers, the community of practitioners and older persons in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards.”