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Inclusive Change-Making

4 minute read: Why addressing accessibility is imperative in the fight against the climate crisis.

Alita Fabiano

Over 1 billion people worldwide have a disability. We must adopt an inclusive approach to change-making while addressing the climate crisis.

The need for accessibility and the fight against climate change are paralleled issues. Intersectionality should play a key role for each of us when building a more sustainable future. People with disabilities are some of the most resilient individuals I’ve ever met, and their lived experience leads to some of the most unique forms of problem solving; solutions that address unspoken issues within the climate crisis. Through inclusive growth and the diversity of opinions that intersectionality fosters, we can capture the creative solutions that are as resilient as the individuals behind them.

Through inclusive growth and the diversity of opinions that intersectionality fosters, we can capture the creative solutions that are as resilient as the individuals behind them.

Many people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are those with disabilities. Evacuating swiftly in a climate emergency becomes that much harder, often in the compromised position of having to leave behind medical devices. There are also additional barriers when accessing healthcare services. The already vulnerable position many are put in is only amplified by inaccessible formats of public health information, even delayed and untimely releases of accessible information. The 15% of the world’s population experiencing a disability is a number likely to grow exponentially as a resulting health consequence of the climate crisis. For this reason, it’s critical that people with disabilities are not only included in the activism fighting for solutions, but are also involved in developing climate policies so that they are able to contribute meaningfully.

As part of this, it’s important to take a step back and understand what disability means. My definition is that it’s the relationship between an individual and their health condition, in relation to personal and environmental factors. More specifically, my disability is the factor that prevents me from fully accessing all society has to offer. My hearing impairment means that something as simple as a video not having closed captioning or something more serious like barriers to accessing proper healthcare could not only prevent me from receiving important information about the climate crisis, but could have negative effects on my health condition as well.

So, how does a purpose-driven organisation adapt to inclusive change-making? By actively choosing to make ongoing, small changes so that everyone has the opportunity to access and partake in what you’re doing. There needs to be a holistic 360-approach to inclusion so that all people with disabilities, from communicative to mobility to cognitive, can all participate in activism. By incorporating an approach of diversability and embracing the diversity in ability levels of everyone, you will better understand how to meet their unique needs as individuals.

It’s important to always consider if a person with a disability will have difficulty accessing your information or accessing your location. Ways to address this are by having descriptions for images, easy-to-read text, and closed captioning on videos. When it comes to in-person demonstrations, protests, or events, always state information on a location’s accessibility. Try to hold an event in accessible places; areas accessible without stairs, with even terrain, and allow for eased mobility. When this is not possible, offer options for virtual participation as an alternative way to engage. It’s important to use sign language interpreters at events as well. Lastly, and most importantly, actively seek out and listen to the perspectives of people with disabilities.

Ultimately, to build a more sustainable world, we first must ensure it’s inclusive so that all individuals have an equal opportunity to participate in making change. Once that is achieved, the potential prosperity is endless.