Weekly Poll – Climate Change (Week Beginning 2 November 2020)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 2 November 2020, we asked a question about Climate Change.


Do you have concerns about the impact of climate change on disabled people in Scotland?  

  • YES – 88% (35 respondents)
  • NO – 12% (5 respondents)


Respondents identified the following main themes and key concerns.  We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Air Pollution

A variety of air pollutants have known or suspected harmful effects on people’s health. The British Lung Foundation state that If you have a lung condition, high levels of pollution can also cause an exacerbation of your symptoms, such as an asthma attack or a COPD flare-up.

“The disability community is the most vulnerable in terms of rapidly occurring climatic catastrophe and air pollution since many live with already compromised health conditions and limited mobility.”

“Local Authorities are doing nothing to improve the quality of the air which is seriously affecting my and many other local people’s health making us prisoners in our own homes. Where I live, which is not a town or city and is an area where people are commonly mistaken for expecting the air to be clean!”

Extreme Weather

Climate change is expected to worsen the frequency, intensity, and impacts of some types of extreme weather events. The Met Office state that rainfall patterns are changing, and sea levels are rising, resulting in the increased risk of heatwaves, floods, droughts, and fires. Some respondents raised concerns about the knock-on effects of extreme whether on health and the environment.

“Local flooding due to increasing frequency of high and storm tides resulting in the use of sandbags to reduce ingress of flood water into properties. Therefore, there is a heightened fall risk making pavements inaccessible for wheelchair use. More effective means of preventing flood water ingress which are much less intrusive, and health and safety risk could be easily used! These sandbags often stay in situ for weeks after the flood risk, “just in case they are needed”, continuing to block pavements and be of extreme hazard to disabled and elderly people.”

“Rehousing in flood prone areas, help with cleaning up if flooded, insurance costs unaffordable, hazards from disrupted roads and pavements, storm damage to roofs fallen trees and other debris on roads and footpaths etc.”

“Increasing warm/damp weather effects my breathing related ailments and pain.”

“I suffer from multiple chronic illnesses and with climate change I spend more time in bed for my body to rest as with the cold weather coming in my body is about ten times sorer.”

Plastics and Recycling

Plastic pollution is caused by the build-up of plastic waste in the environment. Respondents were left frustrated by some companies that remain reliant on using plastic materials for their products and services. There was recognition that some plastic products can be beneficial for disabled people. For example, a recent campaign highlighted that plastic straws can act as an accessibility tool. It is also important to ensure that recycling channels are designed to be accessible for disabled people.

“I think there could be barriers to disabled people as pharmaceuticals and companies that provide aids and equipment to disabled people often seem to rely more on plastics and seem to be doing little to change this, which can make it harder to be more environmentally friendly. This puts us in a difficult situation with not much power to change this as often these things we need can be a matter of life or death.”

“I’m concerned disabled people will get blamed more heavily for climate change, for example, as seen with plastic straws, and become scape goats rather than people using the energy they have to find sustainable, inclusive and accessible solutions.”

“It’s frustrating that my disability negatively impacts on how much I can recycle!”

Electric Vehicles

Disabled people raised concerns about the accessibility and affordability of electric vehicles. There was particular concern around the conversion of existing Blue Badge spaces into charge points. At Disability Equality Scotland, we recently conducted a poll specifically about the accessibility of electric vehicle charge points, which can be viewed on our Your Say on Disability website.

“I think that climate change is something that is very important, however certain changes being made are effecting disabled people such as turning Blue Badge Parking spaces into charging spaces.”

“I am in the process of getting a new car just now and an electric or even hybrid car is way beyond my budgetary limitations as I need a car large enough for me, my wife, my daughter who is my carer and my wheelchair which is larger than an average wheelchair. In fact, there are limited vehicles that meet the criteria.”

“Living in accommodation that is not suitable for electric vehicle charging points which means you cannot get the latest vehicle.”

Engage with Disabled People

It is important that disabled people are consulted with in relation to all aspects of climate change, including; recycling, re-using, travel via public transport, use of carbon-neutral infrastructure, active travel, making homes energy efficient, getting involved in protest about the climate emergency, and being part of local decision-making on climate issues

“Many resources that are currently in place to help tackle climate change aren’t currently accessible and I think there needs to be more inclusion of disabled people in climate change conversations so we can ensure that things and companies that only disabled people might use also meet standards and solutions don’t exclude us but equally include us.”

“I think there really does need to be more action towards slowing climate change and disabled people need to be bought along with the changes not left behind.”

“We don’t have much of a say on anything really, that needs to change.”


Most respondents had concerns (88%) about the impact of climate change on disabled people in Scotland. Air pollution can have an impact on people’s health, including people with lung conditions who may experience an asthma attack or a COPD flare-up. Extreme weather conditions can have a subsequent effect on the accessibility of streets and paths. It is important to recognise that some plastic products such as straws can act as an accessibility tool for some disabled people. When addressing the concerns that have been raised, it is essential to engage directly with disabled people.

Disability Equality Scotland, November 2020