Devon’s Independence After Hurricane Dorian
Disaster Justice Means Ensuring People With Disabilities Have Access to Resources
In early September 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian caused widespread destruction in the Bahamas, targeting Great Abaco Island. Thousands evacuated, including people with disabilities and older adults, while many still remain missing.
In the best of times, poverty in the Bahamas is widespread. Many people with disabilities and older adults do not have access to the basic resources necessary to maintain their health and independence. During disasters, poverty is especially pernicious.
Manoushka and her young son Devon live on Great Abaco Island and were forced to evacuate during Hurricane Dorian.
Devon has multiple disabilities that require expensive assistive technology and durable medical equipment. He has been carried everywhere for his entire life, and could benefit from a wheelchair to increase his mobility and independence. Due to steep prices and lack of suppliers, fitted wheelchairs are difficult to acquire throughout the Bahamas Family Islands.
Devon has grown too big and heavy to be carried, and without the proper equipment, he will face more mobility challenges as he grows.
The fear of evacuating without a wheelchair in another hurricane adds to Devon and his mother’s concerns.
On September 7th, Openworld Relief informed The Partnership for Disaster Strategies of Devon’s need for a wheelchair. We then reached out to our relief partner, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC). Once they heard that Devon has never had his own fitted wheelchair, they quickly jumped into action.
By September 15th, FODAC was able to pack up Devon’s new chair and send it to Openworld Relief personnel in Florida.
Exactly one week later, Blue Window Logistics, a freight forwarding outfit operating out of Fort Lauderdale, was delighted to assist in this group effort by donating space on their flight to Abaco for Devon’s wheelchair. The flight was met by Openworld Relief staff in the Bahamas who delivered it to Devon and his mother the following morning.
This wheelchair will provide Devon and his mother with unprecedented mobility in their daily lives.
Additionally, with the increase in frequency and intensity of weather events due to climate change, this wheelchair could be a lifeline that enables a fast evacuation in the event of an emergency.
On a daily basis, The Partnership sees how systemic poverty affects people who are already marginalized, and creates additional barriers impacting poor disabled people. These barriers include the ability to become aware of an impending disaster in time to prepare, to evacuate before, during, or after a disaster, to have resources, such as food and water, and to maintain independence throughout the entire process.
We see how the lives of people with diabetes, who already struggle to access insulin due to excessively high prices are further jeopardized during a disaster, where it may be difficult to acquire medication and to keep it properly refrigerated. We see how people with mobility disabilities are unable to evacuate due to inaccessible shelters. Addressing poverty, as well as ensuring older adults and people with disabilities have access to high-quality medications, equipment, and personal supports is critical to mitigating the massive impact of disasters.