Disabled people are facing “climate-change themed” hostility and aggression for using cars, according to a charity.
Marianne Scobie, leader of Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) said it was increasingly hearing of people being subjected to abuse for other reasons such as not shopping locally because stores are “inaccessible”.
She said people with disabilities were finding it more difficult to adopt ‘green’ practices such as cutting car use or even recycling because they were unable to move bins to the front of the house for collection.
In addition, she said the infrastructure around electric car charging was “largely inaccessible”.
A major research project, led by Heriot-Watt University, is getting under way in Scotland to look at the barriers disabled people face in trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
Ms Scobie said: “We welcome this academic research which we hope will support evidence and research by Disabled People’s Organisations, which demonstrates that many climate change measures impact negatively on disabled people.
“We are increasingly hearing from disabled people facing climate change themed hostility and aggression, i.e. eco-ableism, because they need to use cars, plastic straws, buy pre-prepared food and so on.
“It is essential to consider the wider barriers facing disabled people and the impacts these have on our ability to play our part in addressing climate change: for example, if a disabled person does not get the social care support they require to prepare and cook meals, they have no alternative but to buy pre-prepared foods and ready meals.”
Glasgow City Council is aiming to achieve an ambitious target of ‘net zero living’ by 2030.
As part of this a new car free zone in the city centre will be created within the next five years, stretching from George Square to pollution hot spot Hope Street across Argyle Street and up to Cathedral Street. However the council has said that there will be caveats including for disabled people..
“Many local areas have no accessible shops, so buying local is not an option,” said Ms Scobie.
“As a result, many disabled people rely on cars to get around, but the cost of electric vehicles is prohibitive and the infrastructure around EV charging largely inaccessible, so this is not a ‘greener’ option for disabled people.
“All of this contributes to why we feel that the drive to ‘net zero’ is going at a faster pace than the drive to improve access needed for disabled people.”
She said the charity’s own research in Glasgow – pre-pandemic – found more than 400 examples of barriers in the physical environment while changes to the public realm during lockdown had also made the city more inaccessible.
She said: “The reduction in cars and taxis permitted to drive into the city centre, removal of disabled parking bays, inaccessible public transport, increased pedestrianisation, poor design of cycle lanes and crossing points, all contribute to increased barriers to disabled people accessing our city.”
A team of academics from Heriot-Watt’s School of Social Sciences hope to gain a better understanding of so-called ‘eco-ableism.”
Professor Kate Sang, who is leading the project, said: “Eco-ableism can be defined as being a failure by non-disabled policy makers and environmental activists to address the impacts upon and needs of the disabled community when considering climate action initiatives.
“This new project team centre the voices of disabled people to understand their daily life choices when trying to adopt more environmentally practices, to understand the barriers they may face and suggest solutions for more disability inclusive environmental action.
To find out more or to register interest, visitwww.hw.ac.uk/uk/research/engage/ecoableism.htm