Back Issues of PDAA Today

Back issues of PDAA Today, PDAA’s quarterly print newsletter are now online and available for download.

A Global Challenge: Aiding Those with Disabilities

Tara Sonenshine

Tara Sonenshine (

Editor’s note: Tara Sonenshine — former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, and current PDAA member — prepared this opinion piece for CNN. She is now a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

CNN, 21 October 2013.  Imagine not being able to hear a siren during an emergency or to see a warning sign to evacuate. Imagine navigating knee-high mud in a wheelchair or trying to explain to a child with Down syndrome why he or she must seek higher ground. Those are just some of the challenges facing those with physical and cognitive disabilities — people often least prepared to face a natural disaster.

A largely overlooked report issued this month by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction found that the crucial needs of about 1 billion people living with physical and mental disabilities around the world are not woven into the disaster planning and emergency response plans of governments and civil society groups.

The result is that a disproportionate number of disabled persons suffer and die in disasters because of a lack of attention to their needs. Emergency response systems and shelters are poorly designed to handle their requirements. According to the report, 70% of those with disabilities who responded to the survey in over 100 countries said they did not know how to tap into any existing emergency response system in their communities. They become largely dependent on the good will of families and neighbors.

The full text is on the CNN Web site.

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