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Interaction of persons with disabilities and disaster warnings

Friday 19 May 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


Interaction of persons with disabilities and disaster warnings
Participants at the community-based workshop which focused on the interaction of disability and disaster. MELINA ETCHES/23051825

A workshop designed to bring people with different impairments – hearing, seeing, walking, talking, thinking and self-care – together to understand their experiences of an emergency disaster, was held yesterday at the Ruaau Meeting House.

The community-based workshop which focused on the interaction of disability and disaster was presented in Maori and English and sign language so people with different disabilities could feel comfortable in participating in a way which was best for them.

Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project is managed by the Pacific Disability Forum and was facilitated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Rhiannon Tara, the compliance lead at the Office of the Ombudsman, said: “We are responsible for receiving complaints about discrimination on base of disability so this workshop is an opportunity for us to create some awareness within our community to what we do.”

The focus of the delivery was based on the five priority areas of: decision-making, communication, accessibility, capacity (people’s ability to know what to do in times of emergencies and knowing how to be best prepared), and warning systems.

Invitations were extended to government agencies including Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) and Ministry of Internal Affairs with an interest in disability and/or disaster to provide them with an opportunity to hear from and engage with people with disabilities, said Tara.

“It was also an opportunity for them to observe and practice inclusive strategies that they can use to help make their workshops more inclusive,” said Tara.

“It is important to us that the community (persons with disability) know what these agencies do, and it is an opportunity for these agencies to participate and engage with these communities.”

Over 50 people participated in the workshop, the youngest being a school student and the oldest an 84-year-old. Participants also willingly shared their experiences.

“We are proud people, we don’t like to ask for help… it’s been interesting watching people openly share,” Tara said.

John Paul Lindsay, the co-chairperson of the Cook Islands National Disability Council (CINDC), in his opening remarks said: “Today’s workshop is important because it’s all about you, it is an opportunity for you to share your experiences during times of disaster.”

“We want you to be brave and have courage to share your knowledge, to tell us about your challenges during times of disaster.

“We need to know the good things and the bad things; we can only start to fix a problem when we know that there is a problem.

“And with helping hands, happy hearts and open minds, together we can find the solutions… it is about taking responsibility, to ensure we are all safe during times of disaster.”