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Wed, 19 Sep 2018

Shelter from the storm

a cyclone-damaged home
A home damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie. Photo: Yetta Gurtner

With cyclone season just around the corner, a James Cook University researcher is investigating how to improve the experiences of people with disabilities who are evacuated to cyclone shelters.

Andree Malpass, a JCU post-graduate student in Cairns, said people with disabilities often have special requirements.

“These can include things such as wheelchair-accessible bathrooms or provision for assistance animals, but cyclone shelters are generally not purpose built to meet these needs,” she said.

Mrs Malpass said she would be investigating what challenges have been faced by people with disabilities in cyclone shelters, with a view to making them more disability-friendly in the future.

“Studies in the past have mostly reflected the views of staff managing disaster shelters and not the perspective of people with disabilities themselves. This is an opportunity for people with disabilities to share their own personal story of being in a cyclone shelter,” she said.

“I’m looking to talk to people with disabilities who have used a cyclone shelter between 2011 and 2017. I can do interviews in person or via Skype, they take about an hour, and, of course, they are confidential.”

Mrs Malpass said she expects the research will uncover the good and bad things people with disabilities have experienced in the shelters.

“I think it will also show the wisdom of actively involving people with disabilities in disaster planning.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the interviews, by telephone or in-person, can contact Mrs Malpass on 0473 936 416 or at andree.malpass@my.jcu.edu.au.