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Federal report finds extreme weather substantially and disproportionately impacts people with disabilities

Thursday, May 4, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                

May 4, 2023

WASHINGTON—Today the National Council on Disability releases a report focused on the effects people with disabilities experience due to natural disasters and extreme weather.  

The Impacts of Extreme Weather Events on People with Disabilities examines how extreme weather events and environmental hazards have adversely and disproportionately impacted people with disabilities in the United States and its territories over the past 20 years.

The report considers the experiences of people with disabilities before, during, and after disasters by focusing on State, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments’ compliance with relevant federal statutes and regulations; the effectiveness of applicable federal programs and policies and their implementation across health care, housing, education, employment, and emergency management; and whether federal agencies monitored and enforced these policies  when entities were noncompliant.

“‘Weathering the storm’ is more than an idiomatic expression given the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” said NCD Chairman Andrés J. Gallegos. “People with disabilities are too often overlooked in emergency planning and response efforts placing their safety and well-being at risk.”

In 2022, the United States experienced 18 separate billion-dollar weather disasters, including drought, flooding, severe storm events, tropical cyclone events, wildfire and winter storm events, causing at least 474 direct or indirect fatalities.

“Rights and responsibilities under federal disability laws do not disappear due to extreme weather catastrophe,” said Gallegos. “As these events have become far more common, it is critical that we ensure full inclusion of the needs of people with disabilities in emergency management planning and in all response efforts.”

NCD found that during an emergency or major disaster, people  with physical, sensory, mental, or cognitive disabilities are disproportionately affected.

“As a person with a disability, I’ve seen first-hand how extreme weather can displace a disabled person across state lines, which causes them to lose critical Medicaid-supported services because Medicaid doesn’t transfer across state lines,” said Council Member Sascha Bittner. “In addition, people with disabilities already face huge obstacles securing accessible, affordable housing. Some people with disabilities are just one extreme weather event away from facing institutionalization and the cascade of negative impacts institutionalization brings because of the absence of such housing supply.”

NCD makes numerous federal recommendations regarding monitoring, enforcement, data collection, and needed guidance to U.S.  Departments of Justice; Homeland Security; Health and Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; Education; and Labor; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and SLTT government emergency management agencies.

NCD is an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy.

The report is available at

An official website of the National Council on Disability