Tackling climate change with a disability

As you’ve likely seen across the news, climate change has been high on the agenda recently with protests, rallies, global summits and 11,000 scientists saying the world is facing a climate emergency.

Although I do agree changes are needed to be done to tackle global warming, but things are being done the wrong way and many decisions made are not considering the lives of disabled people.

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion

Firstly I want to mention the environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion – who wants governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action to address climate change.

I do agree the government need to do more to tackle climate change but protesting and disrupting people’s everyday lives is not the answer.

For instance blocking roads not only causes more traffic but, ironically, causes more pollution. A majority of people driving are doing so because it’s their only form of transport available to them or it’s their job – (e.g taxi driver, bus driver or delivery person).

The protesters have also been causing disruption at airports. Again, I understand aeroplanes can cause air pollution but travelling by plane may be the only option to get to certain destination for work, weddings, funerals, medical treatment and any other personal commitments.

There was even a former Paralympic cyclist, James Brown, who glued himself onto an aircraft at London City airport.

Personally, I found this quite hypocritical because as a sportsman, he had to travel by plane to attend competitions. How does he expect Paralympic athletes to get to Tokyo next summer?

The most ridiculous protest so far was on the London Underground. As part of tackling climate change, many people choose to travel by public transport – which these passengers were doing. Plus the trains are electric vehicles so they’re not even damaging the environment.

Seeing these protestors on the news, I’m beginning to suspect they are just doing it because they enjoy the disruptions and love the publicity. If they genuinely cared about the environment, they would have the common sense to realise trains are electric on the underground.

To anyone part of Extinction Rebellion, I strongly urge you to stop these ridiculous protests and disrupting lives. Instead go home and tackle climate change in your homes, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.

I would like to see the government discuss climate change more but until this General Election and Brexit is over, it looks very unlikely at the moment.

Car emissions and public transport

Emma’s Peugeot grey/blue motability vehicle

When it comes to deciding to travel by car or public transport with a disability, a majority of the time, there is no option.

90% of journeys I make is by car because the accessibility to public transport is limited for me.

As a child while living in Gosport, I used to take the ferry to and from Portsmouth.

Throughout my life I’ve taken day trips to London by train but if I ever take an evening trip, I go by car because there is no guarantee I can get to or access the last train home in time.

A majority of other train links from my home in Alton require multiple changes, which is difficult for me having to change trains, platforms and waiting for assistants. Moreover, many train journeys are much longer and more expensive than driving.

It was reported this week that Bristol is aiming to become the first city in the UK to ban diesel vehicles by 2021. Again, seems like a good idea in theory but for many of us, travelling by car with diesel is our only form of transport. I hope that if this does happen, Blue Badge holders are exempt.

I would happily consider an electric vehicle but wouldn’t be able to afford it. Also they have to be recharged regularly and can only travel a certain distance before needing to be recharged.

Plus in order to have a home charging point fitted, you will need to have access to off-road parking, such as a private driveway or garage.

Plastic straws and bottles

Pack of plastic straws

Another concern I have is what will happen if plastic straws and bottles are banned. Currently I have to rely on them in order to have a drink.

Fruit Shoot bottle with waterAt home, I tend to drink water by reusing Fruit Shoot bottles. However after a period of time I do need to bin them as they become unhygienic or broken.

I use these particular bottles because they are the right size for me to hold and also the spout is easy for me to drink from. Plus they are the right size to fit under my water machine so I can refill them myself.

When it comes to straws, I mostly use them when I’m out at cafes, pubs or restaurants. This is because the mugs or glasses tend to be too heavy or too large for me to hold independently.

I find the paper straws don’t seem to work and they just soak into the liquid. The metal straws you cannot bend which is difficult for people with disabilities.

I agree having plastic straws and bottles can harm the environment but they need to come up with a more accessible way for people with disabilities to be able to access drinks.

It would be useful if somebody could create a metal straw that can be repositioned to fit the disabled persons need.

Also have small reusable bottles that are easy for people to access if they have dexterity issues.

Representing disabled people in the discussions on climate change

Disabled sign with stick person’s arms in air with green background

Lastly, it is important disabled people are represented in the discussion on climate change and be included throughout the campaigns.

Decision makers should consider what impact new climate change legislations will cause to disabled people’s lives before taking action – (e.g banning diesel cars and plastic straws).

Also disabled people are allowed to campaign and join the protests.

Back in October, Extinction Rebellion Disabled Rebels group organised a mobile toilet service for a demonstration – and the hoists and changing tables were impounded by the police before the demonstration even started. 

This is discriminating because disabled people have the same rights to protest as non-disabled people and therefore should have the right to access toilets like everyone else.

In addition, many disabled people are unable to attend campaigning events due to poor accessible venues and inaccessible public transport.

Final thoughts on climate change

Overall, I totally agree that climate change needs to be tackled but people are going about it the wrong way.

Plus disabled people need to be a part of this worldwide mission.

Having protests, causing disruptions and getting arrested isn’t the answer.

Banning diesel vehicles isn’t the answer until electric vehicles become easily available and affordable.

All public transport should be accessible to disabled passengers so that they don’t require their car for all journeys.

Banning plastic straws and bottles will prevent disabled people accessing drinks.

Finally, disabled people need more representation in order to tackle climate change equally together!

What are your thoughts on climate change? Have you been able to make any lifestyle changes to help the environment? Are you disabled and concerned how legislations may effect you?

Share your thoughts in the comments box or social media.

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