Where are persons with disabilities? A reflexive thematic analysis of Federal Government climate change documents




MacDonald, Sarah Ellen

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While persons with disabilities are not a homogenous group, most are likely to be disproportionately impacted by climate change and the “natural” disasters that result from these changes. As a social worker living with chronic health conditions and a particular interest in disability and public policy, I was curious about how Canada’s Federal Government climate change policies and initiatives address persons with disabilities and their diverse needs. My research explored how matters of health and disability have been taken up in recent Canadian Federal Government climate change policies and strategies through an analysis of six significant climate change documents. Framed by a feminist, poststructural-inspired critical disability lens, the documents were examined through an inductive approach to reflexive thematic analysis, with the aim of contributing to critical conversations around the intersections of disability justice, climate justice, and related social justice matters. Through reflexive thematic analysis, I identified three key themes: persons with disabilities are widely absent from Canadian Federal Government climate change documents, both as collaborators as well as groups considered in climate change planning; adaptation to climate change and climate resilience are central in government climate mitigation strategies; and healthy and normative body-minds are presumed by the documents, which broadly assume all people have the same capacities to adapt. Subthemes included both a prioritization of the economy, and a foregrounding of a productive, compulsory, able-bodied and able-minded citizen around which climate change strategies are designed. I conclude with some suggestions for how Canada’s climate change policies may become more inclusive for persons with disabilities.



climate justice, climate resilience, climate adaptation, ableism, climate change and persons with disabilities, climate crisis, persons with disabilities, social justice, canada, climate change, climate policies, vulnerable populations