Climate Change

We all know about climate change. But do you know what it means for disabled people?

Temperatures are rising and there is more extreme weather and flooding. This has an impact on people’s health and on the economy and jobs. This might get worse if temperatures continue to rise.

For every degree that temperatures will cost the Scottish economy 1% of our Gross Domestic Product (this is the value of all the goods and services in Scotland at any one time).

But the impact of climate change is not felt equally.

Disabled people around the world are being hit hard by extreme weather. Bigger wildfires, longer droughts, and more intense storms and floods can be catastrophic for some disabled people, who are already more likely to be living in poverty and face other barriers. They are less likely to have insurance to help them if their home is affected. It may also mean that they are less likely to be evacuated safely and more likely to face health risk.

After a big hurricane in America in 2005 called Hurricane Katrina we learnt that evacuation warnings, shelters and emergency transport were not accessible to disabled people. Many disabled people died in their homes or nursing homes.


85% of disabled people from 137 countries reported in a 2013 UN survey that they have not participated or been consulted in community disaster management processes.

Disabled people need to be part of the Scotland’s decision making too. We think that climate change activists and policy and decision makers are not thinking about disabled people. We call this “eco-ableism”.


To start to change things we have:

  • Gathered disabled people’s lived experiences of climate impacts at a webinar on Climate Change, Disability and Eco-Ableism, and to find out their priorities on this ahead of COP 26
  • Worked with disabled people to think about how the responses to climate change will impact on us
  • Got involved in national and local decision making and participation in climate action, and supported disabled people to do this too
  • Made links with climate change organisations and they agree that disabled people must not be left out
  • Hosted a Solutions Series event called It’s our planet too: Climate change, disabled people and climate action in Scotland’ involving disabled people, climate change activists, academics and decision and policy makers.


Examples of eco-ableism include:

  • Ignoring disabled people in emergency planning – e.g., when designing flood protections or flood evacuations
  • Urban planning for low-carbon cities that discriminates against disabled people who need a car to get about and who find public transport inaccessible
  • Protesting about climate change such as blocking roads as this prevents disabled people getting about and can stigmatise us
  • Banning plastic straws without accepting that some disabled people need them to drink safely and comfortably
  • Promoting active travel without realising that some disabled people cannot walk, wheel or cycle e.g., removing disabled parking bays to make way for cycle lanes.
  • Recycling initiatives that are inaccessible to disabled people in mind, and not providing support and accessible information for disabled people to recycle and play their part.