RI Statement on Haiti Situation for People with Disabilities

January 27, 2010

NEW YORK - Rehabilitation International (RI), a global disability network, is deeply concerned by the tragedy of the recent earthquake in Haiti which has been extremely devastating in terms of human lives and for communities within Haiti and internationally. This extends to the disability community, where real impact in terms of lives lost and persons newly affected by disabilities caused by the earthquake has yet to be measured, though initial estimates put the number in the thousands.

Persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to becoming the first victims of natural disasters because of their social situation - being the poorest of the poor - and often residing in areas of precarious infrastructure and housing. In addition, natural disasters often cause numerous types of disabilities.

RI appeals to all organizations and governments providing emergency relief and aid to earthquake victims in Haiti to not forget persons with disabilities in their efforts. In addition, RI asks that reconstruction efforts include persons with disabilities and their perspectives in both development and implementation of any plans. For example, new construction should take into account global accessibility standards to ensure that all persons, including those with disabilities, can access and make use of these reconstructed facilities on equal basis with others in the communities. New transportation vehicles should also be accessible. New emergency policies should incorporate persons with disabilities in the planning and implementation stages.

“Raising the bar now on inclusion of persons with disabilities in Haiti will go a long way towards realizing the goal of a more sustainable future – one that enables persons with disabilities to enjoy an accessible environment just like everyone else,” said RI Secretary General Venus Ilagan. “Implementing policies, such as ensuring all rebuilt and new buildings are accessible will help Haiti fulfill its commitment to disability rights.”

Haiti ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in July 2009, which includes provisions that ensure the protection and inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters, as well as other rights, such as nondiscrimination, accessibility, education, and access to justice.

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For more information or contact details of disability experts within the RI membership, please contact Venus Ilagan, RI Secretary General, at ri@riglobal.org or +1-212-420-1500.