Disabling environments experiences of impairment after the christchurch earthquakes
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Disabling Environments: Experiences of Impairment After the Christchurch Earthquakes. Joint Centre for Disaster Research/GNS; School of Health and Social Services Massey University Dr Suzanne Phibbs Kerry Williamson Esther Woodbury

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Joint Centre for Disaster Research/GNS; Christchurch Earthquakes

School of Health and Social Services

Massey University

Dr Suzanne Phibbs

Kerry Williamson

Esther Woodbury

Thank you to the Office for Disability Issues, Ministry of Social Development, members of the Association of Blind Citizens, Christchurch; the staff of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind; and to the participants from the ‘disability community’ for their willingness to share their stories for this research.

Interviews Christchurch Earthquakes

People from the Association of Blind Citizens, Christchurch – January 2011/February 2012

Staff from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind – April 2011

Interviews with people from the ‘disability community’ Christchurch – May 2012

Individual preparedness Christchurch Earthquakes

“[Now] I have a torch, I have a first aid kit, I have a radio, I have candles, I have water bottles full in the bottom of the pantry, I make sure my gas cylinder is topped up [for the] barbecue… I make sure that my cell phones charged, I make sure that I’ve always got at least quarter of a tank of diesel.”

“Well, making sure that I wasn’t going to run out of medication and those things because if I couldn’t get to my pharmacy where everything is, then I would be in trouble if I was somewhere else because that’s where the records are.”

Individual preparedness Christchurch Earthquakes

“I couldn’t get hold of my caregiver who was going to be coming around, so I thought, ‘what now?’”

“[My job] was a huge part of carrying me through those difficult times, as were my caregivers, because I had such a good relationship with them as well. They’re like friends or family.”

Individual responses Christchurch Earthquakes

“[After getting help from a caregiver] I was then able to go out and assist others, so over the next two or three days… I was going and visiting people and making sure they were OK. One of my caregivers made up frozen dinners, so I was able to take frozen meals to people who didn’t have um, access to being able to cook and things, so it felt, again it felt surreal, but it felt really good to be in this position, where I could do that for other people, just like having a disability myself… I was able to assist others in a small way.”

Evacuation or welfare centres

Evacuation or Welfare Centres Christchurch Earthquakes

Community responses Christchurch Earthquakes

“At the Community Centre they said… because my neighbour had an impairment as well, they said that they couldn’t accommodate people with disabilities because… They didn’t even ask us about, ‘Oh what supports do you guys need?’ We just got told, they said, ‘We can’t accommodate you.’”

“At the welfare centre there was always someone who kept an eye out on me, their responsibility was just to keep an eye one me... ‘cause I was the only person with an impairment there… they would get one of the security guards… to make sure that all my needs were met… so that was kinda nice.”

Community responses Christchurch Earthquakes

“About half an hour later there was a knock on the door and a torch shone into the window so that gave me enough light to see, and it was one of my neighbours who’d just come to see if I was alright, which was great and I asked them the same as well… and then someone from across the road came over to see if I was ok.”

“Yeah, and it’s been our own personal networks rather than institutions... friends and colleagues.”

“I’ve had a bit of help, like I say, from friends and colleagues, like getting to and from work once the office did reopen. It wasn’t the issue that I thought it might have been, solely because the help that I did get.”

Staying in communities Christchurch Earthquakes

Whether or not people stayed in their community they could lose support networks, mobility, systems for everyday life, and their independence.

Loss of support networks made people feel like they would be more vulnerable in subsequent earthquakes.

Organisational Christchurch Earthquakes responses

“I knew [the Council] wouldn’t be able to find me an accessible place that I liked. Because they… offered me an accessible place, but it had no accessible kitchen.”

“After September, the Red Cross came around, a lovely lady from the Red Cross took all my details, yes, this is a disabled lady living on her own, if there’s another event, she needs help to evacuate, but I never saw the Red Cross again and they never turned up.”

“I think somebody should have checked on disabled people... some official, if you follow my point.”

Organisational responses Christchurch Earthquakes

“I had to sort out the insurance stuff um, and that’s been really hard for a disabled person, getting quotes, getting stuff… neither EQC nor the insurance company realised how hard it was for me, and then they’d lose all the stuff you’d sent them and they’d say ‘well, can you just go and get…’ and I tried to explain how difficult it was, but there was no understanding of it.”

Organisational responses Christchurch Earthquakes

“I got that support through txt messages, emails, phone calls, and people in my immediate environment dropping round to see me or me dropping round to see them, and that to me I think is stronger than having someone, a stranger from Civil Defence  turn up in an orange jacket saying can I help, for me it is anyway.”

“[Facebook] that’s quite a good medium. At first after February, we you know, we connected with all staff, you know, are you OK, and it was just lovely, that contact all the time.”

Trying to move on in a disabling environment Christchurch Earthquakes

“I think I’m now getting to the wrecked feeling, um, I’ve kept strong, because I had to sort out the insurance stuff um, and that’s been really hard for a disabled person… anything that could be saved was packed by my friends, and stored, once I found a home to rent my belongings had to be unpacked, washed and stowed away – by me! I had no help to do this – this may have been because I found it too difficult to ask friends to help me again– but there were no ‘agencies’ set up for this purpose.”

“It got quite frustrating [getting around the streets] but then I thought, ‘I’m not in the eastern suburbs (anymore), I can deal with it.’”

Conclusions Christchurch Earthquakes

“We need to be cognisant of the additional factors that disability might present, such as access, and ability and timeframes and all that, but still keep it ordinary.”