Study shows ways to involve visually impaired people in environmental disaster prevention – Advice Eating

Brazilian researchers show that inclusion is necessary if civil protection policies are to avoid the “invisibility” of these people and reduce the barriers that increase vulnerability. Credit: Giselly Gomes/GPEA

According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), almost half of the world’s population – approximately 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people – live in areas that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Social inequality greatly increases this vulnerability.

To examine the impact of inequality on environmental risk reduction and disaster prevention programs, researchers in Brazil affiliated with the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT) and the National Disaster Surveillance and Early Warning Center (CEMADEN) conducted an exploratory qualitative study Study conducted that focused on visually impaired people.

Starting from the question of how to include the visually impaired in discussions about risk reduction and climate action, the researchers concluded that despite legal advances, a number of barriers continue to hamper societal participation in many areas, particularly in decision-making bodies. These obstacles increase the dependency of the visually impaired and perpetuate their “invisibility”.

“People with disabilities and organizations that work with them are not included enough in environmental policy discussions. On the other hand, institutions dealing with environmental management do not worry about how to create forms and spaces to involve them. Their invisibility is so great that we don’t even have data on this topic. They were not involved in measures to prevent environmental disasters and adapt to climate change. We hope that this study can somehow enlighten institutions about the need to develop more inclusive strategies,” says sociologist Victor Marchezini. Marchezini is a researcher at CEMADEN and co-author of an article about the study published in International Journal of Disaster Risk Science.

“Learning about the dangers of environmental disasters taught me the importance of listening to these people. When they engage in the process, public policy formulation takes a different path to become more inclusive,” said Gomes, who is currently working with the Mato Grosso State Institute for the Blind (ICEMAT), one of three organizations participating of the study, which began in 2017. The others were the state’s Center to Support the Inclusion of Special Education (CASIES) and AMC, its Association for the Blind.

Participatory methodology

The researchers contacted three organizations that work with visually impaired people in Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso, to request data on their whereabouts and movements around the city to see if they were exposed to hazards such as landslides and floods. among other.

With around 623,000 inhabitants, Cuiabá faces infrastructure problems due to urban expansion into environmental protection areas. Many poor families live in informal settlements in flood plains along the Cuiabá River and its tributaries without sanitation, garbage collection and other essential services.

The researchers used data collected by the institutions and maps of high-risk areas provided by the city’s Civil Defense Center and the National Geological Service (CPRM) to create maps georeferencing the homes and locations used by 21 visually impaired people in Cuiabá and the most frequented are seven in Várzea Grande, a municipality in the metropolitan area.

Gomes conducted informal interviews and participatory observations at the three institutions, as well as 15 interviews with visually impaired subjects at ICEMAT, asking about climate change, disaster risk, vulnerability, and the role of education. The interviews also raised how difficult it can be for the visually impaired to avoid or negotiate obstacles during floods, landslides and other environmental disasters.

“If my children aren’t with me or go to their father’s, I don’t go out at all,” says a 48-year-old visually impaired woman.

“Day and night we try to be with other people. […] When a disaster strikes, most people are at work or school. […] If there’s a fire, the alarm will sound and we’ll all go outside side by side. […] I can’t see how I can create something special for the visually impaired, but I hope it’s possible,” said a 50-year-old visually impaired man.

Preliminary results were shared at a workshop in 2018 attended by around 100 people, 60 of whom were visually impaired. During the event, the development of a smartphone app was proposed that would help the visually impaired to find information that suits their needs.

Another proposal led to the creation of a tactile map of high-risk areas in collaboration with a professor, technicians from CASIES, and specialists in Braille, a system of raised dots representing letters, characters, or symbols (including punctuation, numbers, algebraic expressions, and grades) in 63 combinations.

The main outcomes were: (1) a mapping method showing where the visually impaired are at risk of landslides and flooding, as a basis for creating tactile risk maps tailored to their needs; (2) incorporating their views on their own vulnerabilities and capabilities in relation to climate change impacts; and (3) an inclusive education initiative to overcome the disabling barriers that compound vulnerability.

Public order

According to the last census conducted in 2010 by the IBGE, the national statistics agency, almost 46 million Brazilians (24% of the population) reported having some difficulty in at least one of the four basic abilities (vision, hearing, walking and climbing stairs) or had an intellectual or intellectual disability, and 18.8% of them reported being visually impaired.

But that contingent is not highlighted among the 8.2 million Brazilians in 2,471 households living in high-risk areas. Disaggregated data and hazard maps are considered important political inputs for disaster risk reduction.

As for the National Civil Protection Policy of Brazil (PNPDEC, Law 12.608/2012), it only requires that the National Civil Protection Council “propose ways and means to meet the needs of children, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled in disaster situations”.

“Every day I try to provoke through education to get these people involved in polls and the formulation of public policies,” Gomes said. “On the other hand, they are still waiting for results and inclusion. It is important to understand that even in high-risk situations that affect everyone, some people are more affected, and they need to talk about how they are affected.”

In the study, the researchers stress the need for visually impaired people to be involved in emergency planning, drills and evacuation drills to improve preparedness, especially when they have children, adding that education is fundamental in this process in order to Transform institutions and bring them together with people who have special needs to be prepared for disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation.

“I want this research to be expanded, and I want these topics to become part of the school curriculum so that people are better prepared and involved,” Gomes said.

The study suggests involving high school students in natural disaster hazard mapping and impact prevention

More information:
Giselly Gomes et al, (In)visibilities About the Vulnerabilities of People with Visual Impairments to Disasters and Climate Change: A Case Study in Cuiabá, Brazil, International Journal of Disaster Risk Science (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s13753-022-00394-6

Citation: Study Points to Ways to Involve the Visually Impaired in Environmental Disaster Prevention (2022 May 10), retrieved May 10, 2022 from .html

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