Disaster Management

Persons with disabilities are approximately two to four times more likely to die than the general population when a disaster occurs. Often, disability perspectives are not included in legal frameworks, policies and action plans for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and physical infrastructure and disaster response services do not incorporate universal design principles. Public service announcements are often issued in inaccessible formats, and shelters and other facilities often are not barrier-free.

During the past decade, the world has experienced an increase in the number of major disasters, and different populations – when exposed to similar risks of environmental and man-made disasters – are affected in different ways, as determined by a number of factors. Globally, more than one billion people or 15 percent of the world’s population live with some form of disability. Available data indicates that persons with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of poverty and face exclusion and lack of equitable access to resources such as education, employment, health care and legal and support systems. Similarly, persons with disabilities, compared to the general population, face higher risks and are disproportionately affected by disasters. Persons with disabilities have unique contributions, often overlooked, to help reduce the risk of disasters and build resilient societies and communities.

The Symbol

We created the original International Symbol of Access in 1969

By the late 1960s, as the disability movement grew, the need for a symbol to designate accessible facilities was being discussed in a number of countries. Different access symbols had already popped up in France, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. As former RI Global Secretary-General Norman Acton recalled, “several of us could see a messy situation developing with multiple symbols – so there was some urgency.”

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The RI World Congress 2021 took place in Aarhus 7-9 September 2021.

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