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Monday, July 13, 2015

Who Rode Out the Storm and Why

 In the event of a disaster I have no doubt the lives of people with a disability hold little value. I think about this every time I access mass transportation. I silently acknowledge that should something go disastrously wrong not a soul will help me. There is no calvary for people with a disability. We are expendable. Based on research conducted over the last year there is no doubt in my mind FEMA and other federal or state organizations place people with a disability at the bottom of the priority list. Multiple practical and social reasons exist for this devaluation. Disaster studies make for scary reading especially if you have a disability. We will be the last, and I mean the very last, people saved. Pets have a better chance at survival and rescue during a disaster.

The last sentence above is not hyperbole. It reflects the experience of people with a disability during Hurricane Sandy, a storm that swept up the east coast and caused a stunning amount of damage. For me the lasting legacy of Sandy is one of human rights. The question to emerge from Sandy is sub basic: do people with a disability have the right to be rescued in event of a disaster. I would answer in the affirmative. I expect to be saved if a disaster occurs yet I know this will not happen. This is the gulf between the law and life as we people with a disability experience it. The mere fact the right to be rescued is a question indicates how devalued the lives are those with a disability.  In "The Right to be Rescued: Disability Justice in an Age of Disaster"  Adrien Weibgen wrote:

disasters are socially constructed. How we choose to respond to the urgent human needs that arise from large-scale weather events determines the degree to which these events become “disasters.” As disasters become more frequent, social inequalities will be thrown into sharper relief, and the consequences of such inequalities will become increasingly dire. Communities will be forced to grapple with two essential questions: in preparing for disasters, how “ready” is ready enough, and to what degree should identity and social status determine who is put in danger, left in misery, and left to die? Link:

Who is left to die? Who will suffer? These decisions are made in the heat of the moment and too date have not been adequately addressed. This has led disaster planers to ask how can we do better. How can we rescue people with a disability in the event of a disaster. This represents a significant shift in disaster management. We are not blaming people with a disability for riding out storms. The fact is there is no place to go. Shelters in New York City were largely inaccessible.  Add in the majority of people with a disability live on the margins of social and economic oblivion and it is hardly a surpise most chose to ride out the storm.

What is desperately needed is what does riding out the storm entail? This is poorly understood and tapping into the reasoning of people has proved illusive to researchers. Thus I am imploring those who rode out the storm to take the survey below. Time is tight so I implore people to take the survey as soon as humanly possible. Link below