EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader

Find Us

ADVERTISEMENT

Extreme heat 'disproportionately' impacts people with disabilities, human rights watchdog warns

People walk near a sign indicating 43 degrees Celsius as near record temperatures hit Bilbao, Spain in 2022.
People walk near a sign indicating 43 degrees Celsius as near record temperatures hit Bilbao, Spain in 2022. Copyright REUTERS/Vincent West/File Photo
Copyright REUTERS/Vincent West/File Photo
By Euronews Green with Reuters
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

People with disabilities faced the risk of death, physical, social, and mental health distress due to extreme heat according to Human Rights Watch.

ADVERTISEMENT

People with disabilities in Spain and other European countries have been disproportionately affected by unprecedented heat extremes, a leading human rights watchdog said on Monday (26 June).

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging authorities to provide adequate support.

The research focused on Spain but can be applied to other nations in Europe, which scientists say is the fastest-warming continent on the planet, according to Jonas Bull assistant disability rights researcher at HRW. 

What risks do people with disabilities face from extreme heat?

People with disabilities faced the risk of death, physical, social, and mental health distress due to extreme heat - particularly if "left to cope with dangerous temperatures on their own" the watchdog said in a report. 

The report also said that a lack of representation in developing heatwave emergency plans meant the voices of people with disabilities were often not heard and their needs not included.

Some people with disabilities are more likely to have health conditions or use medication that can affect the body's ability to respond to heat. Having to stay home due to the heat can also lead to social isolation, HRW said.

Bull told Reuters that inaccessible urban spaces exacerbated the problem. Several of the region's large cities, like Seville and Córdoba, experience "heat island" effects which increase temperatures in urban areas. 

JON NAZCA/REUTERS
Tourists walk under the shadow to avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day, at a shopping street during the first day of the first heatwave of the summer in downtownJON NAZCA/REUTERS

How did Spain's heatwave affect people with disabilities?

In Spain, one of the European nations that experienced record-breaking heatwaves last summer, the national plan to address the impacts of climate change lists actions to protect "vulnerable" populations. 

But it does not propose any specific measures for people with disabilities, HRW said.

The organisation interviewed 33 people with disabilities in the Spanish region of Andalusia and all said "they felt neglected" during heatwaves. 

Most reported that the 2022 heatwave had a "serious negative impact" on their physical health. Many also said that it had affected their mental health as being forced to stay home during the heat amplified loneliness and social isolation. 

People with disabilities should be involved in developing climate plans

"With more intense and frequent heatwaves looming, authorities in Andalusia should learn from last year’s shortcomings and involve people with disabilities in developing an inclusive climate action and heatwave response plan," Bull says. 

He recently presented the report to authorities in Andalusia who said they were committed to prioritising the issue in the future.

Heatwaves led to some 16,000 excess deaths last year in Europe but some countries, including Spain, do not break down data to show how people with disabilities are affected.

HRW said data was crucial to be able to implement targeted measures, as was bringing people with disabilities to the table when putting together climate plans.

Share this articleComments

You might also like