A Global Challenge: Aiding those with Disabilities

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/21/opinion/sonenshine-disabilities-disasters/

It’s hard to believe that in 2013, society is still leaving 1/7 of the population out of something as important as emergency relief. This article states that during natural disasters, disabled people are not able to receive adequate help. Emergency buses are not wheelchair-friendly, deaf people cannot hear sirens, and too many people are being affected due to the lack of concern. While other rights like employment, fair treatment, and ownership are being improved for disabled people, slowly but surely, I find it preposterous that they are not even given the right to survive through a disaster in this country. This utter neglect can only be the result of ableism and the disregard for disabled people by society. I think we can all agree that the government needs to prioritize the lives of ALL people, not just those who are easiest to help.

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4 thoughts on “A Global Challenge: Aiding those with Disabilities

  1. So I was reading through some of the comments on this article (and I encourage you all to take a look at them too because there’s all sorts of opinions) and there was one particular comment that got my attention:

    “In a situation where seconds matter and many lives hang in the balance, resources to assist that one disabled person in a wheelchair could also be put to use to save several other people. Unless for some reason the life of the person in the wheelchair is worth more than those individuals around him, the best thing to do would be to focus on the others.”

    When I first read this comment I was shocked because how could you just leave someone with a disability helpless in a situation like this and just try to rescue other people. Just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean that they are not as worthy as someone who is not disabled. Although the person who wrote this comment doesn’t clearly say that disabled people are not as worthy, he indirectly suggests it.
    But what would emergency rescuers do in this type of situation? If trying to save someone in a wheelchair’s life is equivalent to saving 10 people’s lives, wouldn’t it make sense to just save those 10 people’s lives. I don’t want to sound prejudiced or ableist, but in this case, I think it would be better to save as many people as you can. If you have the resources to rescue disabled people, then by all means use it, but if more lives are going to be lost in trying to rescue a disabled person, is it really worth it? I guess in some ways I kind of agree with what this person was trying to say. Even though it sounds very heartbreaking and tragic, it makes more sense in terms of practicality.Honestly, I myself would hate to be in this situation of who to save and who to leave behind, and personally I don’t know what I would do in such a situation.
    What do you guys think?

  2. I agree largely with Hira’s opinion; it is the job of the rescuers to save as many people as possible, and if it were to take significantly more time to save one person in a wheelchair than to save many others, it would certainly be understandable for the rescuer to save the other lives. However, if society were more prepared for saving people with disabilities during a natural disaster, perhaps this would not even be an issue.

    This article ties in nicely with my paper; I am looking at how the ignorance or lassitude of “abled” people negatively affects the lives of the disabled. If society as a whole were more conscious of the needs of disabled people, in this case during a natural disaster, there would be less of a moral issue of “who do I save?”. Realistically, I am not sure how to make saving someone in a wheelchair efficient, or how, as discussed in the article, saving deaf people trapped under a building, who cannot hear rescuers coming, can be done, but at the same time, we certainly can be more prepared for this events and at least have a higher success rate than we do currently.

  3. I strongly agree with both Andy and Hira. In times of crisis, if you can save five people versus just one, you are going to opt to save more people. People in wheelchairs or people with walkers may get overlooked in critical situations simply because there is no time to save everyone. However, in this day and age there should be systems at play to accommodate for all situations. People with disabilities are a large part of the population; about 15% of people in the world have some sort of physical or cognitive disability. Rescuers should have better training in dealing with the disabled. Every citizen should have an equal chance of being rescued. If the rescuers were prepared to deal with disabled people, then even more lives would be saved. No one would get overlooked. It’s crazy to think that with the survey that was done in the article, 70% of disabled people in over 100 countries did not know how to use any of the emergency response systems in their neighborhoods. If organizations did a better job in reaching the disabled population and preparing them for disasters, then there would be so many more lives saved. Disaster relief programs should definitely improve their outreach programs into the disabled population. Using accessible evacuation buses and housing with ramps should be the first step.

  4. After reading the article the part where it states about one billion people with some sort of disability are left out from any disaster planning and emergency response plans, I was shocked how ignorant our society is about disability. The statement made me realize the serious need to raise the concern about disability issues to public and the importance of awareness in general. And as Hira said, even though it sounds very unfair and discriminating, in the position of a rescuer, the quantity of people one saves would be more important which would lead rescuers to choose saving the ones who are easier to save. However, as Andy said, our society should be more prepared to save the ones with disability as well instead of ignoring them or stating they are harder to rescue. Also, the aftercare after disasters should be more arranged better for disabled populations and avoid situations like disabled people dying in medical centers or nursing homes due to lack of care.

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