How Extreme Weather Threatens People with Disabilities

A few days before Christmas, our area was hit with an arctic blast that dropped temperatures well below zero. On the first morning of the flash freeze, we woke up to a cold house. Our furnace wasn’t working. I am so incredibly fortunate that my cousin is an HVAC expert and was available to come up that night. Thanks to his skills and generosity, our time in a cold house was brief but it got me thinking about our need to better prepare. Extremely cold weather can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for people with disabilities. As is often the case, this artic blast was accompanied by snow, further complicating our options to get out and go somewhere else for warmth. Here are some reasons why people with disabilities need to take extra precautions during extremely cold weather.

Limited Mobility

People with mobility impairments may find it difficult to walk or move around in cold weather, particularly if there is snow or ice on the ground. This can make it hard for them to get to work, take their children to school, or get to medical appointments.

Sensory Issues for People with Disabilities

Some people with disabilities, such as those with visual or hearing impairments, may not be able to fully perceive the dangers of extreme cold. For example, they may not be able to see thin ice or hear a car approaching on a slippery road.

Medications and Health Conditions

depth photography of blue and white medication pill
Photo by Pietro Jeng on

Cold weather can exacerbate certain health conditions, such as asthma or arthritis. People with disabilities who take medications may also find that the cold affects the way their medications work.

Limited Access to Resources

People with disabilities may have limited access to resources that can help them stay warm, such as transportation to a warming center or assistance with shoveling snow.

Click here to read part two of this blog series.

About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.

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