Skip to content

Janet E. Lord, Michael E. Waterstone & Michael Ashley Stein, Natural Disasters and People with Disabilities, in Law and Recovery From Disaster: Hurricane Katrina, Robin Paul Malloy ed., 2009.

Abstract: Emergency situations arising from natural disasters invariably cause human suffering. It is the responsibility of domestic governments and international humanitarian assistance organizations to minimize this anguish to the greatest extent possible, especially for vulnerable populations. Almost by definition, advance planning is crucial. Yet all too often governments, humanitarian assistance agencies, and other policy makers fail to adopt a disability perspective in natural disaster humanitarian crises situations. With distressing frequency, the disability experience is either neglected completely or lost when cast among other vulnerable groups. Below, we examine these failures in several contexts, and make suggestions for more integrated and disability-appropriate advance planning. We introduce the problem through the lens of United States domestic policy during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and then globalize the problem by examining the role of disability and humanitarian assistance programming in the developing world. Our assertion in this chapter is straightforward: considering the disability experience and including persons with disabilities when planning disaster relief in the first instance minimizes human harm and reduces (re)development costs in the future.