Boarded and taxiing for take-off to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, I reflected on access and inclusion. Things were slick and efficient at Brussels airport. Sure, the assistance were five minutes later than promised but it was obvious that passenger rights and dignity were priorities, and that and I’m generally not excluded from services that my fellow travellers have access to. I’m lucky enough in my home an professional life to feel equally involved, living independently and being part of a busy emergency response unit.
But switch context to a situation of disaster – an earthquake, conflict, or typhoon – and it’s clear that things have potential to be very different. Homes destroyed perhaps, friends/families separated, basic essentials like food and water in short supply or non-existent; the list can go on… At this point priorities must be made, and – for many reasons – much of the relief and recovery work neither reaches nor involves a significant part of the affected population. It’s the point at which the concept of inclusion moves beyond comfort and dignity and becomes life-saving.
To put numbers to it, one in seven of the global population is a person with a disability. There are also reports of mortality rates exceeding that of the rest of society by up to four times.
But to look at these figures positively, it is a massive resource of untapped potential. In December, for example, I visited the work of some of our partners in Bangladesh where disaster preparedness work that benefits the whole community is being driven by disability inclusion. A large part of our relief and recovery work in Nepal over the last year was done in collaboration with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), who knew not only how quickest and most accurately to identify the most marginalised people, but how to ensure the information about relief work and the services themselves were accessible.
This is the point; until all emergency responders practice inclusion to this degree there will always be a percentage of the population who are left behind.
The WHS starts officially today, and is geared to address some of these issue, with various events and one of the Special Sessions dedicated specifically to disability. It is imperative that the outcomes reflect this agenda.
I’ll write again, but In the meantime do follow live: