In my previous blog, I explained some of the reasons as to why people with disabilities may be more susceptible to cold weather and need to take extra precautions. So, what can people with disabilities do to prepare for extremely cold weather? Here are some tips.
Dress in Layers
Wearing layers can help keep you warm by trapping heat between the layers. Choose materials that will keep you warm, such as wool or synthetic fabrics, and be sure to cover your head, hands, and feet. My favorite layer is my sherpa-lined pants. They are so huge, I have to store them in my closet because they’d take up a whole drawer! They make me look a bit ridiculous but I’m warm and cozy (and have apparently reached the age where that matters most).
People with Disabilities and Staying Hydrated
It’s important to drink plenty of water, even when it’s cold outside. Dehydration can make you feel colder and can exacerbate health problems. We were so fortunate to have power throughout this event, so we had access to ice and water, allowing us to cook. We need to put a plan in place for when we don’t have access to water.
Keep track of the weather forecast and stay aware of any weather-related alerts or warnings. If you have a disability that may make it harder for you to evacuate in an emergency, make a plan with your family or caregivers and make sure you have an emergency supply kit on hand.
Be Careful with Temporary Heating Options
We’ve now stocked up on a couple of safe(r) space heaters. With three kids, we looked for features that turn off the heater if it accidentally tips over. We also found heated blankets with functions that turn the blanket off after a certain amount of time. We wanted to stay warm without creating another disaster in a house fire!
People with Disabilities and Asking for Assistance
If you need help preparing for or coping with extremely cold weather, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Reach out to friends, family, or local organizations for assistance with tasks such as shoveling snow or getting to a warming center. We are beyond grateful for family support to help us with these things. We’ve recently tried to find consistent people to pay for shoveling and so far, haven’t been successful. Even if you need help, ask for it, and can pay for it, we as a disability community, need to talk about what happens when we still can’t get the help we need. It happens.
There are still several months left of potential winter weather in our area of the country. We can’t avoid it but we can be prepared when it’s here. Stay warm!
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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