Disabled person

The United States is home to tens of millions of people with disabilities.

“It’s – depending on how you define it – anywhere from 12 to even 20% of the population. Because we have an aging population, that number is going to get higher,” says Alex Ghenis of the World Institute on Disability.

He says that as people work to limit global warming and respond to the impacts, they sometimes overlook the needs of this large and growing population.

“Within the environmental community, I think that there is just this kind of inherent assumption of ableism,” he says.

For example, a small, energy-efficient house may not include wide doorways or a roll-in shower, so it may not accommodate someone with physical disabilities who uses a wheelchair.

And though riding a bicycle or growing food can help reduce carbon pollution, not everyone can participate in these activities.

So Ghenis says climate and disability rights activists should work together to shape a low-carbon future that includes the needs of people with disabilities.

“There’s got to be, I think, better communication, better partnership, better empathy and understanding and collaboration toward creating a healthier environment that still supports everybody,” he says.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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