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There’s advice about disability relating to the workplace, legal requirements & accessibility in this section.

Claire Holland Head of Training

Claire Holland on… ETUK at the Specialist Skills Network

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This week I was very pleased to be invited to talk at the Specialist Skills Network which has been set up by the National Gallery and the Museum of London. On the day, a number of professionals from different galleries and museums situated around London came together to share experiences and expertises regarding planning events for children with Special Educational Needs.

The planned activities already being held sounded wonderful and the enthusiasm in the room for ensuring that disabled children and those with additional needs were able to access and experience the exhibitions fully was inspiring. I was there to fully support the scheme but also to add a note of caution as requested by Orlagh from the National Gallery.

As I am sure you are all aware, Enhance the UK is a charity which very much focuses on the perception of disability. Now the perception in the room was very positive as I had expected it to be. Those attending the network are there because they are already engaging with disabled children and young people. I wanted to stress the importance of ensuring that all staff working in a venue who interact with the public having Disability and Communication awareness. To do this I was able to highlight several times I have been unable to fully access museums and other heritage sites, simply because the frontline staff were unaware of what they have to offer. I have lost count the number of times I have been told that a loop system is not available for audio tours to find out at the end that this wasn’t true.

Worse still are the staff who won’t listen to my needs and insist they know better. I have frequently been told to try in the ear headphones as they are very loud, after I have told them I wear a cochlear implant and have no natural hearing and cannot use headphones. When I refuse this opportunity I am then given a look as if to say, ‘oh dear she’s trouble.’ Taking a hearing dog into a museum can also be a stressful experience. Constantly having to repeat that she is an assistance dog and is therefore allowed in becomes tiring after a while. As is the attitude of some staff who have to repeat themselves as you miss what they say when they are not looking at you. All the examples I have given are hearing related simply because these are my experiences, however I know from talking to other people that regardless of the disability there are barriers that need to be overcome.

If I am sounding very negative about staff then I must stress that I don’t mean to be. The majority of staff who work in museums and galleries are very helpful and will do everything they can to ensure that you can fully access the exhibitions. I believe that those staff that I have spoken about already who aren’t helpful are only like this because they do not have an understanding of disability and therefore simply do not know how to react.

Unfortunately negative experiences are likely to put people off attending heritage sites and that is a real shame. I was delighted to see that a key objective of the Specialist Skills Network was how to ensure that disability awareness and the good practices already developed are spread throughout all teams at the museums and galleries. This to me is a very positive step in the right direction.

Claire Holland Head of Training

10 Reasons you should book Enhance the UK’s Disability and Communication Awareness Training

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I was recently asked why service providers and businesses should book training with us and what sets us apart from other organisations offering training. I thought I would share my response with you.

1. Increased Confidence – Ask a disabled person about a ‘rabbit in a headlight’ moment and they can always recount several experiences when customer facing staff have not known what to say or do when realising the customer is disabled. Sometimes it’s funny, other times offensive, but either way it’s never good for business. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I haven’t had to pay for things or queue simply because the employer doesn’t know what to say or how to behave when finding out I am profoundly deaf. A memorable one was when I lost my car park ticket. After realising I was deaf the car park attendant rather than try and communicate with me, simply turned round to his colleague and said, ‘Do you know how to explain to her that she needs to pay for a full day parking? No me neither!’ Before proceeding to give me an exit ticket free of charge! Think of the lost revenue. Incidences like that simply wouldn’t happen if staff had received our training. On our feedback forms we are proud that we always have 100% agreement that the training gives increased confidence with interacting with disabled people.

2. Tips and Strategies – it’s all very well your staff having information about disabilities but unless this is applicable to everyday practice in your business it’s useless. We at Enhance the UK always offer tips and strategies to help your staff better engage with disabled people.

3. Fun and engaging sessions – There is nothing worse than being forced to sit through long boring training sessions. I myself have been to a few. Eventually you switch off and retain very little. This to me is a complete waste of your money. You obviously want your employees to retain information and utilise their knowledge. Training with Enhance the UK is fully interactive and PowerPoint presentations are banned! Attendees have fun and as a consequence remember what they learnt. Please see our testimonials!

4. Develop an understanding of barriers – It’s always better to pre-empt possible barriers that disabled people may face when accessing your venue/ service. It really doesn’t reflect well on you as a business when after being asked if the venue is accessible and a member of staff informs the customer it is to then find out it isn’t. This happened to a colleague of mine recently. We attended a venue together whilst working for Enhance the UK, having been told it was accessible to find out it really wasn’t. This resulted in my colleague having to crawl on her hands and knees into the toilet as it simply wasn’t big enough for her wheelchair. I am quite sure this is not an experience she is keen to repeat and was embarrassing to all concerned including the manager. Barriers aren’t simply physical barriers, I have lost count the number of times I have said that I am profoundly deaf to then be told to ring an accessibility line, err hello? Really?

5. Disabled trainers – Would you want your employees to learn about living in Paris from a person who has never lived in Paris? I suspect the answer is probably not. All of our trainers are disabled themselves and are therefore able to share their experiences with your staff. They are also all very welcoming of questions and provide honest and open responses.

6. Tailored training – we do not provide ‘cookie cutter’ training. We always ensure that we tailor our sessions as much as possible to the requirements of your business. This results in your employees benefiting more from the session and ultimately you as a business.

7. Show you’re a business that cares – Advertising that your staff have Disability and Awareness communication training just highlights that you are interested in more than simply turning a profit and hitting targets. This can be no bad thing for any business/ service.

8. We don’t hit you over the head – A friend who has her own business explained that at times she has been told what she must do in order to ensure that she provides an accessible service without any consideration of the feasibility of such things. This has put her off any further training. We at Enhance always offer advice in ways to ensure your business is accessible but not in a ‘bullying’ way.

9. Team building – Our training is so interactive that not only do participants walk away more confident and knowledgeable about disability but also they have also spent the day together in interactive situations having fun. This is always good for staff morale.

10. Learn about another language – We always ensure that we include a very basic British Sign Language session within our day.

The Undressing Disability shoot 2013 in front of Big Ben, London

Charity Projects at Enhance the UK by The Learning People

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How do you deal with disability in the workplace? That’s a question asked by awareness charity, Enhance the UK.

Jennie Williams, founder and project manager of Enhance the UK, offers awareness training designed to combat prejudices against disability in the workplace and schools in a fun, interactive and engaging fashion.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START ENHANCE THE UK?

“Part of the reason I started Enhance the UK was because I am a hearing aid user.

“This has given me greater empathy, understanding and passion to support people who have physical and sensory impairments.

“It is important to me that these people have a voice, so that’s why being user led is imperative to the success and integrity of the charity.”

 

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU COME UP AGAINST?

“Like with anything you set out to do, you will have some amazingly supportive people and then people who completely do not get it.

“We sell disability awareness training to promote equality in the workplace but some businesses simply do not see why they might need it, which can be frustrating.

“More specifically, one of our most challenging but rewarding projects has been the 2014 calendar for our ‘Undressing Disability’ campaign, which featured disabled models in their underwear in public places.

“One of our shoots took place on a boat on the Thames so we had to make sure we were organised – taking enough photos with limited time.

“When the first round of calendars was delivered we were dismayed to find the watermarks hadn’t been removed.

“This was stressful as we couldn’t afford to buy hundreds more of the calendars, but fortunately the calendar company were sympathetic and replaced our order free of charge.

“Finally, we had the calendars but no real platform to sell them on a large scale, however, we did have social media and we also sent press releases to major publications.

“These proved fruitful and we were featured in large international publications such as The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post, ending up selling all of our calendars worldwide.”

HOW DOES THE TEAM COMMUNICATE?

“Communication is key to ensuring everything gets done in the different projects we work on.

“Myself and my staff are in constant – several times daily – communication through every given medium, even WhatsApp.

“We regularly stay on top of emails and have a group Google Drive folder which contains spreadsheets for fundraising trusts we approach, which is updated weekly.

“We have a big, face to face meeting every three months, while myself and my core staff will typically have strategy meetings every couple of months.

“Skype is also useful for speaking to potential volunteers or trainers around the country.”

HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES?

“Many disabled people are fiercely independent and want to get that across by offering us their opinions.

“Others may be more reserved and not used to having their voices heard so you have to try and gain their trust – it’s all about working with what individuals need.

“When it comes to sensory impairments, more technical issues surrounding communication arise, so we make our website – and ourselves – as accessible as possible.

“This will include subtitling our videos, as well as using a BSL interpreter in them and adhering to the correct guidelines for blind people.”

HOW DO YOU MANAGE STAKEHOLDER EXPECTATIONS?

“While setting up our crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign for our teaching children about disabilities book, The Secret Sign, we were required to offer our contributors/stakeholders rewards for their donations.

“We meet these expectations by offering perks such as personalised thank you notes, copies of the book, voice recordings and artwork – all things we can offer while keeping our costs low.

“The estimated arrival time for the product is three months, which we will strictly adhere to, but which also gives us plenty of time to custom print the books so our stakeholders are not let down.”

WHAT DO YOU HOPE SOCIETY’S ATTITUDE WILL BE TOWARDS DISABILITY IN THE FUTURE?

“A new survey by Scope shows us that only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out a disabled person.

“I hope in the future that this drastically changes, to the point where disability is not an issue for people in any setting.

“If disability awareness training, much like the programme we offer, is implemented in more schools I would hope we would see a much more natural and empathetic approach to disability.”

 

Claire Holland Head of Training

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland: Enhance and Business

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Enhance the UK has decided to put its business hat on! I don’t mean that we will no longer be a charity or stop aiming for our charitable objectives but simply to achieve these we recognise that we need to learn from commercial leaders.

In today’s economic climate fundraising is hard work – it’s a case of taking one step forward and three back. Several charities this week have announced they are under threat of closure due to being unable to raise enough money for core costs. Just to explain, core costs are the day to day running costs of a charity which are not linked to a specific project, examples are salaries, admin, financial compliance, etc. All of these need to be paid for in order to continue with our projects, however, these are very hard to find funding for. And fundraising for the campaigning that we do, well that’s a nightmare!

Luckily, the team at Enhance the UK are not the type to admit defeat and crawl into a hole somewhere (although I am sure the urge has been there at times). We have decided to take the bull by the horns. We recognise that one way to finance our core costs and various projects is to sell more training to organisations and have been lucky enough to have met an inspirational woman from a media advertising company who has agreed to mentor us. We met this week and were provided with guidance regarding a business plan focussing on sales. During the meeting we concentrated on our mission and exactly how we plan to get there. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty, but it’s safe to say that we had some fantastic advice which we intend to use.

Equally as important, in my view, is that we left the meeting drained but enthused by a vision. There has been a lot of publicity this week around International Women’s Day and rightly so. The conversation turned to all the initiatives to encourage women in business as there is immense pressure for businesses to diversify their staff. A large number of businesses now publicly recognise the positive impact that women at all levels of the business can have on them. The changes that are being made are irreversible, although it is acknowledged that there is still some way to go. Wouldn’t it be amazing if in five years time we could be in the same place regarding disabled people in business. In fact, not just in business but in society.

You may think that this is a pipe dream. Maybe it is, but I sincerely hope not.

The secret sign cover

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland – The Secret Sign

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This week at Enhance the UK I have been promoting our Indigogo campaign – The Secret Sign. This is a campaign to raise £3,000 to be able to publish the book that we have written.

Anyone who knows us understands that we are all incredibly busy and are likely to be asking, ‘what were you thinking writing a children’s book?’ I thought I would take the opportunity to fill you in with the details.

When running disability awareness sessions in primary schools, I often had teachers asking if I could recommend good books with disabled characters in them.  This made me think about why it is important for disabled characters to be in children’s books. We at Enhance the UK are running the disability awareness sessions in schools because we believe that attitudes to disability are shaped during childhood and therefore we wish to encourage children to develop positive views relating to disability. It has, for a long time, been established that books allow children to see characters who look like themselves, have similar thoughts and feelings. Books also allow children to see characters with different backgrounds and learn about the world. It therefore stands to reason the importance of having positive disabled characters in children’s books in order for disabled children to be able to identify with characters similar to themselves and for non disabled children to learn about disability in a positive way. I then decided that I had better conduct a bit of research and, to be honest, the findings were shocking. Now don’t get me wrong, there are books out there. But in my opinion, they frequently fall into one of three categories.

Firstly, the books which address disability and being different in an abstract way. I am sure that we are all familiar with them. The characters tend to be animals who struggle to fit in. I am in no way discrediting these books. I think they are lovely stories and have a time and a place but I do not believe that the majority of the readers relate these characters to real people with disabilities.

Next, there is the picture book story in which one of the characters is wearing a hearing aid or in a wheelchair. The disability itself is not mentioned during the plot. An argument for this type of book is that it normalises disability. There is a drive to ensure diversity is displayed within children’s books. Picking up books written when I was younger (25 plus years ago. .. cough, cough) nearly all the characters in books were white and it was rare to see a character from a different ethnic background. Now there are far more books out there in which the characters are clearly not from a white European background but there is very little in the written content of the story about the cultural background of the characters. This, to me, can only be a positive thing and I hope that more books will feature children with disabilities in the same way.

Lastly, there is the book which features disabled characters who are central to the story, but tends to address the disabilities in stereotypical ways. In my view it is fair to say that books including disability which do not fall into one of the mentioned categories are few and far between. We at Enhance didn’t want to write a good book about disability. We wanted to write a good book, full stop. We have created a story about twin brothers Seth and Sammy – Seth is deaf, while Sammy is hearing. The book is about their relationship and how British Sign Language affects their lives. It’s the first in a series of books which will include characters who have various disabilities. We are also very lucky to have a fantastic illustrator on board too.

I hope you can all see why this book is incredibly important to us now. If you can support us in any way we really would appreciate it.

Emaciated mannequin

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland – Body Image and our Workshops

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This week I was shocked to see a photograph of a shop mannequin which appeared to be completely emaciated, posted on my friend’s Facebook. The tirade of comments underneath were predictably negative towards the practise of shops promoting unhealthily thin body shapes. On further investigation, the photograph had come from an article in the Daily Mail on the 21st February. The mannequin was displayed in a Whistles store in London. Eating disorder support charities had condemned the store and called for shops to be more responsible for setting standards.

Whilst I personally accept that it is not correct to pin the blame for eating disorders on shops who use unrealistically sized mannequins, I certainly feel that the image of body size and shape that these mannequins promote is dangerous. Having previously spent a considerable amount of time researching body image (a person’s inner conception of his or her own physical appearance) when creating Enhance the UK’s Body Image Workshops, I was shocked by my findings. There is extensive evidence that a woman’s self worth in western cultures depends on their resemblance to the thin youthful image portrayed by the media.

Furthermore boys and men evaluate the worth of their partners, mothers, sisters and friends against this unrealistic image. If this is correct then I myself must be seen as lacking! It would be wrong to assume that the media does not also impact on men’s body image. Research findings have shown that the media also provides external pressure for the ideal of the masculine perfection for boys.

You might be reading this and tempted to say ‘who cares?’ But when looking at the impact of poor body image on adolescents the results were worrying. Body dissatisfaction plays a huge part in the development of a low self esteem. Which in turn can impact on mental health and wellbeing. The consequence of this can be seen in nearly all aspects of everyday life. I apologise if it appears that I have got on my high horse, it’s a personality quirk of mine!

So how is my rant linked to behind the scenes at Enhance the UK, I hear you ask. Well, as I previously mentioned Enhance the UK provides Body Image Workshops. These are delivered by positive disabled role models. The day comprises of 3/4 mini workshops focusing on a variety of topics including self esteem, the media, communication as well as fitness and nutrition. The topics are all bought together in a final assembly. It’s important to stress that the focus of the day is not disability. I was privileged to be involved in the delivery of these workshops at a girls school in Kent.

At times during the day emotions run high but the feedback from all the girls involved was highly positive. One attendee wrote that the day had made her think about how she sees herself and she had realised that the expectations she placed on herself in terms of her appearance were not realistic. She went on to say that she would continue to use the techniques she had learnt about raising her own self esteem and that she felt the day was a profound experience for her. With feedback like that we were simply buzzing! I really believe that the day we have created is such a positive experience for young people and urge everyone to recommend it to schools and youth groups etc!

Last week Enhance the UK had an exciting meeting with Platform Productions about creating a short, thought provoking film about Body Image. This is something that the Enhance the UK team is incredibly excited about so keep an eye out for updates.

Claire Holland Head of Training

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland – Training with the National Gallery

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It’s been an exciting time at Enhance the UK recently as we are involved in some really interesting projects. A short time ago two of our fantastic trainers delivered Disability and Communication training for education staff at the National Gallery. They were so pleased with the training that we delivered that we were invited to attend a meeting regarding how we might work with them in the future.

I recently attended the meeting with Jennie (our CEO) and was pleased to learn how seriously they are taking access. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the education team at the gallery already have a project in place to encourage and support schools in bringing children with special educational needs to the gallery. This includes outreach work and visiting the school prior to the trip to provide INSET training to school staff.

The gallery itself also provides tours in British Sign Language and has information available in Braille and large print. They have been rated highly on the access guide Disabled Go. It was refreshing to find that they are still striving to improve accessibility. Orlagh Muldoon the schools programme manager explained that she is working in conjunction with the Museum of London to strive to make it easier for children with Special Education Needs to access what is rightfully their heritage. They are setting up a specialist network and inviting museums and galleries around London to join. This will be an opportunity for those involved to share experiences regarding making their venues and experiences accessible to children with SEN, support each other and receive advice. Enhance the UK has been invited to talk at one of the meetings about what we do and the importance of Disability awareness training.

I personally am incredibly excited by this. Orlagh’s comment regarding rightful heritage resonated with me. People with disabilities regardless of age should be able to fully access museums and galleries. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. I have lost count of the number of times I have attended museums in London to leave frustrated. Anything which we at Enhance the UK can do to help improve matters on this is incredibly worthwhile from my perspective. It’s early days on this project, so watch this space!

Claire Holland Head of Training

Behind the Scenes at Enhance: Claire Holland, Head of Training

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When Jennie (the CEO for Enhance the UK) asked me if I would like to write a blog, I was a tad hesitant to say the least. What I currently know about the blogosphere (Google is my friend) can be written on a postage stamp. What can I write about, I thought and then it dawned on me. I could blog about my experiences working with Enhance the UK.

I am in a lucky position to work on a freelance basis as the Head of Training for Enhance the UK, a charity I am passionate about. Not many people are able to say that they look forward to going to work and that no two days are the same. Furthermore, without wishing to sound gushy, I genuinely believe that as a collective everyone who is involved with Enhance makes a difference. That’s not to say that it’s all sweetness and light; some days can be frustrating and you feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back.

So what do I do for Enhance? Good question … a bit of all sorts really. I am one of the Disability and Communication Awareness trainers. I mostly provide the communication element as I am profoundly deaf and wear a cochlear implant. I love delivering the training as it’s always good fun. PowerPoint is a swear word at Enhance and is banished. The training is always really interactive and tailored to meet the needs of the delegates so no two days are ever the same. This keeps me on my toes. It is really rewarding to see the change throughout the day to the group of people who enter the training room at the beginning. They often start looking anxious and unsure of exactly what to say as they trudge through the minefield of what disability related language to use so that they don’t offend. By the end of the day they always look more relaxed and that fearful look on their faces has disappeared. That to me is a job well done. I wholeheartedly believe that removing the fear factor around disability is essential.

I also attend schools and deliver disability workshops to children in primary and secondary schools. Although it’s hard work dealing with children aged 4 and upwards all day this is one of my favourite elements of working with Enhance. Children are naturally inquisitive about disability and their curiosity is crushed at a young age by adults who tell them not to ask questions or stare. I have lost count of the number of times that a child has poked my implant asking what it is or asked why I am waving my hands around funnily in the air. The response of the parent is always along the lines of turning red with embarrassment, looking like they want the ground to swallow them up and shushing their child whilst apologising to me. I think this is a crying shame. Children should be able to learn about disability in an open and safe environment and this is what we achieve with Enhance. Talking about disability, playing games related to disability and answering questions allows children to learn positive messages about disability which we hope they will take with them into adulthood.

It’s not all fun training days though. I do a lot of putting pen to paper. I can often be found writing letters to companies, writing policies and strategies and filling in grant application forms to name a few. Anyway that’s a little about me and the work that I do. Look out for my next update as to what’s been happening behind the scenes at Enhance the UK.

Submerged Flood Sign

If Floods are Here to Stay, How Will We Reduce the Risks to Disabled People? By Emily Buchanan

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Whilst floods impact everyone, they are especially challenging for the elderly and people with disabilities. “Depending on the severity of the mobility issue,” writes Gerry Bucke, manager of Chartwell Mobility Insurance Services, “some people may require assistance to leave their homes. Negotiating floodwater in a wheelchair or mobility scooter is virtually impossible and if people become trapped, they can be exposed to water-borne diseases, raw sewage and the dangers of waiting for rescue.”

UK January Rainfall GraphUnfortunately, flooding like we’ve seen in the past few months is going to occur more frequently. A 2013 UN report on climate change confirms that human behaviour has caused global temperatures to increase. This has caused arctic sea ice to melt, sea levels to rise and record levels of precipitation.

So if extreme weather is here to stay, what is being done to reduce the risk to the nation’s elderly and disabled people?

In truth, shamefully little. Even after the floods of 2007, which were deemed the biggest peacetime civil emergency since the Second World War, only a fraction of money for flood risk reduction now goes to helping local communities build their own resilience and action plan.

What can we learn for other countries?

Other countries, such as Bangladesh and the Philippines, have shown just how effective risk reduction plans can be. According to CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction adviser Dr Kate Crowley, Bangladeshi communities hold regular town meetings to plan evacuation strategies, ensuring that people with disabilities and the elderly are always taken care of.

Similarly, the tiny Philippines island of Tulang Diyot evacuated every one of its 1,000 residents before Typhoon Yolanda – a vicious storm which went on to flatten every building on the island. It was all down to risk reduction and prioritising the rescue of vulnerable residents.

However, there are also many countries struggling with the disability issue of disaster management. Statistics from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 show that the mortality rate among people with disabilities was double that of the rest of the affected population. Sae Kani, who has worked across Southeast Asia with disabled people, said, “They are always the last ones to be counted. They don’t come to collect the emergency relief items… they are always invisible.”

This issue was embodied at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction by 11-year-old Danh from Vietnam. Danh has a physical disability and told the conference how frightened he was when his Quang Nam village flooded. “From that experience, whenever I see floods and rain, I feel very scared. I beg you: please develop a flood preparedness plan and evacuate kids with disabilities to a safe place, and please teach us and our family members about how to be ready for floods.”

How should we adapt?

As extreme weather becomes more of an issue, the UK needs to “encourage locally-managed disaster risk reduction, and introduce more community flood forums which would help vulnerable people living on flood plains to adapt and plan ahead,” says the CAFOD.

Historically, the changeability of British weather has made it very difficult to prepare for extremes. Our weather patterns fluctuate according to the position of the jet stream, meaning we experience exceptionally cold, warm or windy weather for short periods of time. However, research suggests that the recent warming of the Arctic has caused the jet stream to change, sending “conveyor belts” of weather to the UK that stay for longer periods of time, which explains the increased levels of rain.

Whilst the floods of 2013/14 do not equate to the typhoons of the Philippines or the earthquakes of Japan, our climate is changing and vulnerable people are at risk. Therefore, disaster risk reduction needs to be disability inclusive, and communities need to have access to resources that allow them to plan evacuation strategies, ensuring that people with disabilities and the elderly are always taken care of.

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