Disaster relief often leaves disabled people behind. Disabled first responders are trying to change that

by Bianca Gonzalez: Complete Post through this link…

Disability inclusion in emergency preparedness and response doesn’t just mean supporting disabled victims of extreme weather—it also means including disabled communities in disaster relief strategy.

When disaster strikes, disabled people and low-income communities are hit the hardest and face higher mortality rates. They also take longer to recover. 

Germán Parodi and Shaylin Sluzalis were protesting in Washington, D.C., for disability rights as they found out Hurricane Maria was on its way to Puerto Rico in 2017. Now the co-directors of The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, they were deployed as part of a disabled first responder team. Parodi, who was born and raised on the island, lives with a mobility disability, while Sluzalis lives with an invisible disability.

“Being culturally aware of the dynamics of the island … and knowing how to interact with people with different types of disabilities opened doors that we were being told wouldn’t open in some neighborhoods,” says Parodi.

The Partnership connected with MAVI, an independent living center for those with disabilities and the aging population in Puerto Rico, along with CEPVI, the island’s Ponce-based Center for Independent Living. By coordinating efforts with disability-led organizations and FEMA, The Partnership was able to support more than 100 families in the mountainous areas of the island over the three weeks that followed.

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