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Submission to the Disability Royal Commission on Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness

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posted on 2021-06-08, 04:00 authored by Gwynnyth Llewellyn, ANNE KAVANAGHANNE KAVANAGH, Jennifer Smith-Merry, Michelle Villeneuve, HELEN DICKINSON, DENNIS PETRIE

This is a joint submission from the Centre for Disability Research and Policy and Centre of Research Excellence Disability and Health to the Issues Paper: Emergency Planning and Response, to the Disability Royal Commission on 17 July 2020.

The emergency situation in Australia during the 2019-2020 bushfire season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic together have brought into sharp relief Australia’s lack of preparedness for severe to catastrophic emergencies affecting the nation.

While this impacts all Australians, the impact is evidentially higher on people with disability.

They are more likely to be vulnerable due to:

· social isolation from the broader population whether because of community attitudes or their need for communication, language, mobility, emotional or other supports;

· residing in closed or segregated settings, geographical remoteness (and consequent lack of access to available, affordable and accessible information, support and services);

· relying on particular services and supports for daily activities and care and for access to services and less likely to have the flexibility to adjust to disruptions or closure of the supports needed for everyday routines;

· age-related additional vulnerabilities for children and young people with disability relying on family and for older persons with disability who may no longer have family to whom they can turn for support;

· impairment-related vulnerabilities for example, people with intellectual disability or autism who rely on stable, consistent supports and routines which will be disrupted;

· in pandemics, inability to physically distance and multiple close contacts because of reliance on personal care for activities of daily living for some people with disability;

· in pandemics, particular health conditions that lead to specific vulnerabilities if the person becomes infected or ill (unrelated to the pandemic); and,

· in natural hazard disasters such as bushfires and floods, particular health conditions that lead to specific vulnerabilities in reaction to, for example, poor quality air and smoke hazards, or inability to access treatments that they rely on.

The situation is magnified for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. Aboriginal people are over-represented in the national rates of chronic health and disease, with other disabilities coexisting with mental health problems at a higher rate than the rest of the population.

We now need a disability specific and disability responsive approach coordinated at a national level.

Further information


NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health