(UG1) Massachusetts Climate Resilience Policy, Planning, and the Needs of People with Disabilities: Paths to Improvement

Authors: Rafaello Adler-Abramo

Advisors: Crystal Brown, Stephen McCauley

Category: Undergraduate


People With Disabilities (PWDs) face a four-fold higher risk of death from climate emergencies, yet largely lack any meaningful inclusion in municipal climate vulnerability planning. This project maps out a strategy to increase PWD inclusion in a Massachusetts government agency, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program providing municipalities with climate resilience technical assistance, funding, and guidelines, currently undergoing a 5-year update. Over 95% of Massachusetts’s municipalities participate in this program, so changes to this one entity are disseminated throughout the state. While this project was in its intermediate stage, sharing this project’s early findings and resources led to strong interest being expressed in increasing PWD inclusion by an MVP program official.

All of this project’s resources are offered for MVP’s consideration, as well as for climate planners and activists in other locales, including: recommendations; resources; existing examples from a few locales; and best practices that provide PWDs with equal access to the interventions and protections in climate resilience planning programs. In addition, the researcher draws on PWD expertise to develop a single document showing how multiple specific climate hazards affect accessibility needs for a wide range of functional limits and disabilities.

A gap in the literature is described in detail: there is no widely used, comprehensive system to describe varied types of functional limits and disabilities, despite those in current use being rejected by PWD experts, or else having either excessive or insufficient detail to be suitable for resilience planning.

The report includes input by policy experts with disabilities on how best to identify, and plan to remove, specific barriers for PWDs with varied functional limits and requirements. The project also connected PWD climate activists with the MVP program. While the project is currently focused on the specifics of Massachusetts, it could be adapted to serve the needs of other locales with relative ease, and these resources will be made available to interested parties.