Symposium on disability-inclusive emergency preparedness and response: Learning from the Canterbury earthquakes
NGO cbm works with government to ensure New Zealand leads the way in Disability Inclusive Emergency Response
In May, the NGO cbm partnered with various government departments to hold a symposium called “Disability-inclusive emergency preparedness and response: Learning from the Canterbury earthquakes”. With attendees from the disabled community, health and disability professionals and key government officials, the event heard the experiences of disabled persons and emergency workers in Christchurch. Steps were taken to begin identifying what needs to be done to improve future emergency preparation and response for the disabled community.
Joining for a live video presentation via Skype was Marcie Roth, Director of the Office for Disability Integration and Coordination of the US Government’s FEMA. Pre-recorded video presentations were sent from Japan and Pakistan especially for the symposium. This highlights the fact that disability inclusive emergency response is a global issue and is not isolated to New Zealand.
Awareness of disability inclusive response has gained momentum particularly since tropical storm Katrina in the US, the tsunami in Japan and the earthquake in Haiti. The right to be included in emergency response is also highlighted in Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which New Zealand co-drafted.
“Given the recent emergence of the issue of disability inclusive response, and the limited amount of best practice information, New Zealand is in a prime position to lead the world with inclusive policy and practice. It is a very exciting time,” says Kasia Mills, cbm’s Disability Inclusion Manager.
New Zealand Minister for Disability Issues Hon Tariana Turia and Director of Civil Defence & Emergency Management John Hamilton attended the symposium in support of furthering New Zealand’s understanding and ability to carry out disability inclusive emergency response and preparedness.
cbm’s Emergency Response Unit Senior Manager Valerie Scherrer also spoke at the symposium. Based in Brussels, Valerie has had experience in many emergencies such as earthquakes in Haiti, Pakistan, Iran, India and Turkey; cyclones in Bangladesh and the Philippines; the Aceh tsunami; and in conflict/post conflict contexts in Israel/Palestine and Iran.
Valerie acknowledged that diversity can be overwhelming in emergency management.
Working with organisations and finding commonalities between the different groups can help to provide inclusion for all – not only disabled people.
One of many people with disabilities who voiced their experiences and potential ways of improvement to emergency managers was Pam MacNeill, who highlighted the message of, “Not just consultation, but participation. Nothing about us, without us”. She continued, “I am a totally blind woman and that's quite okay with me. I'm entirely comfortable in my own skin. It's only when others disable me by placing unnecessary barriers in my way, including negative attitudes, that I am truly handicapped.”
The symposium was sponsored by the Office for Disability Issues-Ministry of Social Development, cbm, DPA Christchurch & Districts, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, the Ministry of Health and ACC.
Later that week, Valerie also conducted a half day seminar in disability inclusive approaches to emergency management in Wellington which was attended by an audience with domestic and international emergency interests.
cbm is an international development organisation whose work focuses on improving the lives of people with disabilities around the world.
Videos from the Conference
The following links provide videos that were shown at the symposium as well as a blog from the event done by Darren Ward, National Director of cbm.
Marcie Roth, Director, Office of Disability and Integration and Coordination, US Government, FEMA - http://gettingreal-ii.webcaston.tv/vod/11-09-12-grii-p-roth.php
Nagase Osamu, Visiting Professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan and Council Member of Inclusion International - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKpiphXn3gc&feature=youtu.be
Atif Sheikh, President of STEP, a cross disability organisation in Pakistan http://goo.gl/jMQ1z
For further information, visit the website for New Zealand’s Office of Disability Issues at http://www.odi.govt.nz/whats-happening/events.html.
Follow up article from the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management
Impact magazine, Editorial from John Hamilton and full article "Nothing About Us Without Us" - PDF
Impact magazine, Editorial from John Hamilton and full article "Nothing About Us Without Us" - WORD doc