The Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme (DICARP) is a organization based at McGill University that seeks to centre the voices of people with disabilities in the climate movement. DICARP works at the intersection of the disability and climate movements.
Mission and Purpose
The Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme (DICARP) aims to bring together scholars and activists from the climate movement and the disability movement to “generate, co-produce, share, and translate knowledge”  about respecting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities in climate change action. DICARP was founded in response to the limited amount of research about disability rights and climate change; they realize the gap in knowledge about the unique impacts of climate change on people with disabilities leads to climate action strategies that are inequitable, ineffective, and violate the human rights of people with disabilities . DICARP also recognizes the valuable perspective people with disabilities bring to climate change discussions and aims to ensure its initiatives are led by and accessible to people with disabilities. Furthermore, DICARP approaches climate change with an intersectional lens, which considers the overlapping effect of different forms of oppression, including disability, race, sex, age, queerness, indigeneity, and others .
In Enabling Commons, a podcast (by the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism) which DICARP shares on its website, DICARP’s director and co-founder, Dr. Sébastien Jodoin, explains DICARP has three main prongs: first, they use the disability rights framework to examine the effects of climate change on people with disabilities; second, they review and influence national and international climate policies in cooperation with other organizations, including the International Disability Alliance (IDA); and third, they centre the voices and knowledge of people with disabilities in climate change conversations .
A definition of disability-inclusive climate action is helpful in understanding DICARP’s mission. In an opinion piece, Jodoin et al. describe three conditions of disability-inclusive climate action . First, action must be led by scholars, activists, and others with disabilities who have lived experience of ableism and other forms of oppression. Second, climate research must consider and align with the priorities of people with disabilities to avoid violations of their rights. Third, co-produced knowledge must be made accessible to people with disabilities to facilitate their involvement in climate action. Jodoin et al. emphasize that disability-inclusive climate action requires people to recognize the value of diverse forms of knowledge, including lived experience and community-based research. The IDA adds that disability-inclusive climate action ensures the engagement of people with disabilities and disability rights language in climate change education and awareness .
Knowledge co-production is a critical component of disability-inclusive climate action. Jodoin et al. assert that climate research should be guided by the disability rights movement motto, “Nothing about us without us” . Knowledge co-production can be defined as the creation of knowledge through research and other processes that involve a diverse group of people, perspectives, and experiences . Thus, successful co-production of knowledge is highly participatory. Climate change, in particular, demands knowledge co-production that balances scientific and local knowledge .
Origins and Development
DICARP was co-founded by Dr. Sébastien Jodoin, associate professor in the Faculty of Law of McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health, and the Environment . Jodoin had been a human rights and climate change activist, scholar, and lawyer for 15 years, focusing on the role of human rights in compelling governments to reduce their emissions and preventing the disproportionate harm of groups, particularly Indigenous communities, when he was diagnosed with relapsing Multiple Sclerosis and suddenly became a member of the disabled community—a group disproportionately affected by climate change . At the time of his diagnosis, Jodoin was co-editing a book about human rights and climate change, which included a chapter on women’s rights, children’s rights, and Indigenous rights; yet, it failed to mention disability rights. Jodoin was introduced to a major gap in research about disability rights and climate change, as well as limited inclusion of members of the disabled community in the climate movement. He co-founded DICARP, with Dr. Yolanda Muñoz, associate member of the McGill Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism and faculty lecturer at the McGill Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, in an effort to fill that gap and increase disability inclusion .
DICARP continues to collaborate with other disability rights organizations to conduct research, publish reports, and create awareness about disability-inclusion in the climate movement. Their actions centre and are led by people with disabilities.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
DICARP is a collaborative organization led by the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health, and the Environment and the McGill Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism. It is based out of McGill University and funded by the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada . DICARP has a core team of investigators and research associates, as well as a larger advisory network/panel.
DICARP’s core team includes :
- Dr. Sébastien Jodoin (director and co-founder): associate professor in the Faculty of Law of McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health, and the Environment
- Dr. Nandini Ramanujam (co-investigator): associate professor in McGill University’s Faculty of Law and the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP)
- Dr. Alexis Buettgen (co-investigator): has an academic background in community psychology and critical disability studies and focuses on community-engagement
- Mathieu Simard: PhD candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences at McGill University whose research focuses on disability-inclusive approaches to disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation
- Katherine Lofts (research associate): member of the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health, and the Environment
DICARP’s advisory panel brings together disability and climate activists and scholars from around the world . The diverse panel helps ensure that DICARP’s research is aligned with the experiences and needs of people with disabilities [9, 10].
- Francisco Bariffi: Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata
- Karina Chupina: International Federation of Hard of Hearing Young People
- Louise Fournier: Greenpeace
- Patrick Fugeyrollas: L’Égalité et l’Inclusion des personnes en situation de handicap (INÉÉI–PSH) & Université Laval
- Pratima Gurung: Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network
- Carlos Kaiser: ONG Inclusiva
- Mary Keogh: CBM Global
- Selma Khoudiri: L’Égalité et l’Inclusion des personnes en situation de handicap (INÉÉI–PSH)
- Anna Lawson: University of Leeds
- Setareki Macanawai: Pacific Disability Forum
- Dianah Msipa: Centre for Human Rights, Umiversity of Pretoria
- Dr. Yolanda Muñoz: University of McGill
- Dr. Yolanda Muñoz is a co-founder of the Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme
- Ipul Powaseu: Papua New Guinea Assembly of Disabled Persons
- Shivaun Quinlivan: NUI Galway
- Gordon Rattray: European Disability Forum
- Marcie Roth: World Institute on Disability
- Nkhasi Sefuthi: Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD)
- Jewelles Smith: Council of Canadians with Disabilities
- Fatma Wangare: Kenya Association of the Intellectually Handicapped (KAIH)
- Elham Youssefin: International Disability Alliance
Specializations, Methods and Tools
DICARP conducts research; collaborates with other organizations; shares the latest news about disability-inclusive climate action on their website; organizes educational events to share knowledge; and uses a podcast, Enabling Commons, to facilitate discussions about disability and climate changes.
As Jodoin mentioned in the first episode of Enabling Commons, DICARP has three main prongs . Each prong involves a variety of methods and tools: The first prong (using the disability rights framework to examine the effects of climate change on people with disabilities) is the focus of DICARP’s research and publications, which is conducted by DICARP’s team and advisory panel, sometimes in collaboration with other climate or disability-focused organizations. The second prong (reviewing and influencing national and international climate policies in cooperation with other organizations) is also achieved through DICARP’s research, reports, and collaboration with other organizations. The third prong (centring the voices and knowledge of people with disabilities in climate change conversations) is particularly achieved through DICARP’s events and the Enabling Commons podcast. DICARP’s events, including webinars, forums, and side events of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26, COP14), highlight disability rights in climate change discussions and feature the voices of people with disabilities. The Enabling Commons podcast was established to figure people with disabilities as knowers, makers and doers in the climate movement . One of the podcast’s goal is to combat the dominant tendency of academia and media to emphasize the vulnerability of people with disabilities; instead, Enabling Commons highlights their knowledge and contribution to the climate movement.
DICARP ensures its research, reports, and events are accessible to people with disabilities to promote education about the climate among members of the disabled community. Education helps people with disabilities to understand their rights relative to climate change and engage with the climate movement. By ensuring accessibility to informational events and publications, DICARP removes lack of education as a barrier to participation in the climate movement for people with disabilities.
Major Projects and Events
DICARP’s most recent projects include:
- Nothing about us without us: The urgent need for disability-inclusive climate research : an opinion piece that explains the need for disability-inclusive climate action and describes a vital component of this inclusion is thorough, participatory research on the intersections of disability and climate change.
- Systematic Analysis of Disability Rights in Canadian Climate Policies : a report about the inclusion of disability rights in Canadian climate policies adopted at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.
- Disability Rights in National Climate Policies: Status Report : a report (released in collaboration with the IDA) which outlines the obligations of states to protect the rights of people with disabilities under international law; provides an analysis of disability inclusion in states’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); and makes recommendations for improving disability inclusion in climate actions.
DICARP’s most recent events include:
- An official Side Event at COP26 : focused on disability-inclusive climate action and featured eight participants from different organizations pertaining to climate change, human rights, and disability rights.
- A webinar with the Disability & Philanthropy Forum: discussed the intersections between disability and climate change, as well as philanthropy’s role in community-based solutions, aimming to support members of the disabled community to produce knowledge and bring together disability, climate, and human rights philanthropists and advocates.
- Disability Futures: an event in collaboration with Sins Invalid (a disability justice organization) and Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project (a climate justice organization) which involved a discussion about climate justice and disability justice, as well as Sins Invalid’s performance We Love Like Barnacles.
- A 2021 Economic and Social Committee Humanitarian Affairs Segment Side Event: organized by UNICEF and IDA, which participation from DICARP's advisory panel. Young people with disabilities were involved in a discussion about how people with disabilities can participate in local climate action and how to strengthen their ability to be advocates.
More of DICARP’s research, publications, and events can be found on their website.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Despite there being a limited amount of research on the intersection of disability and climate change, existing publications in this space can be used to evaluate the relevance of DICARP's goals and efficacy of their methods.
Eco-ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities that is specific to actions and attitudes related to the environment and climate change. Eco-ableism involves and reinforces the assumption that there is a correct form of the human body, which creates rigid concepts of health that pathologize people whose bodies deviate from the accepted norm . Eco-ableism enables the exclusion of people with disabilities from climate discussions and allows able-bodied people to act as leaders, protectors, and saviors for people with disabilities—who are figured as dependent and vulnerable . Given the prevalence of eco-ablism, DICARP’s goal to re-figure people with disabilities as knowers in the climate space is significant because it prompts people with disabilities to be included and heard in conversations. DICARP emphasizes the importance of co-producing knowledge, which requires the participation of people with disabilities. Sins Invalid, a disability justice organization which DICARP has collaborated with, also highlights the wisdom that people with diverse experiences bring to the climate movement and holds that all bodies, human, animal, and planetary, are valuable .
The United Nations (UN) released a report that reviews existing data and provides recommendations to promote the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for people with disabilities . In regard to people with disabilities, the report highlights barriers to participation in community life; disproportionate levels of poverty; limited access to education, health services and employment; and underrepresentation in decision-making. The primary barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in their communities, according to the UN’s findings, are discrimination, stigma, and lack of accessibility. Regarding discrimination and stigma, DICARP figures people with disabilities as knowers, which helps promote their participation in the climate movement. DICARP also ensures that their events and publications are accessible to promote education.
Many of the recommendations in the UN's report align with DICARP’s objectives and methods, although the recommendations in the report are more specific to natural disasters and risk reduction. Some of the UN’s suggested next steps include: ensuring that emergency information is inclusive and available in accessible formats; raising awareness among persons with disabilities on disaster management planning at the local level; enhancing the knowledge of aid workers on the needs and strengths of persons with disabilities; and undertaking evidence-based research about persons with disabilities relevant to conflicts and disasters . These recommendations describe some of the work DICARP is accomplishing in the climate space more generally, rather than specifically in the context of natural disasters.
Kett et al. released a report under the Open Society Foundations (the largest private funder of independent groups working on human rights, democratic governance, or justice) following the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) . From their literature review, Kett et al. found very few examples of effective partnerships between the climate movement and disability movement, as well as a lack of research about the specific impacts of climate change on people with disabilities. The report contains recommendations, including improving intersectional understandings of climate and disability issues; developing a rights-based view that connects climate justice and disability rights; increasing disability representation in climate justice networks; conducting more research on the intersection between climate and disability; and supporting disability activists to be leaders and share their knowledge, which align with DICARP's goals. The report recognizes DICARP’s contribution to disability-inclusive climate action and describes DICARP as being “instrumental in bringing together activists and advocates around the climate agenda” (p 32). According to Kett et al., DICARP’s advisory panel is well-comprised and includes “most, if not all, of the key players identified for this research” (p 32). The report also notes DICARP’s successful collaboration with other disability and climate organizations.
Larrington-Spencer et al. also note the limited research about climate change and disability rights; furthermore, they explain the disabled body is a killjoy in the climate movement . The climate-related challenges that face people with disabilities highlight inequalities in accessibility. However, in advocating for better accessibility, the disabled community may be seen as trying to draw attention away from mainstream climate concerns. Larrington-Spencer et al. argue there needs to be more space for disability studies scholars in environmental research and policy making. Aligned with DICARP’s mission, Larrington-Spencer et al. assert the disabled body should be centralized in the climate movement; yet, according to Larrington-Spencer et al., academia plays a significant role in the limited presence of disability. Academia insists on a high level of efficiency and productivity, and members of the academic community must be high performing . Cram et al. explain that to participate in academia, people with disabilities must either overcome their disabilities or figure themselves as an exception, rather than changing the norms of productivity . The exclusion of scholars with disabilities from academia is social injustice and a loss to academia: lived experiences and valuable perspectives are overlooked . The exclusion of the disabled community results in a loss of knowledge; Bell et al. argues that disability must be recognized as an ordinary component of the human experience rather than abnormal or exceptional: disability is a spectrum that every person is on . The exclusion of people with disabilities and their experience from academia highlights the importance of DICARP's mission (to frame people with disabilities as knowers in the climate movement) and methods (such as publishing scholarly work by disability scholars on their advisory panel).
In addition to lacking participation in academia, when the disabled community is mentioned by able-bodied scholars in academic spaces, they are often labeled as a vulnerable group . The assumption that people with disabilities are dependent, vulnerable, and weak further hinders their ability to participate in the climate movement because it diverts attention away from their potential contribution. Kelly-Costello argues people with disabilities are expert adapters: living in a society designed for a particular type of body gives people whose bodies deviate from the norm numerous opportunities to problem solve and adapt . Therefore, the lived experience of people with disabilities is valuable knowledge in the pursuit of climate change solutions.
There are multiple arguments for the unique knowledge that people with disabilities can contribute to the climate movement. Besler explains that people with disabilities have experience living with limitation, pain, uncertainty, and change, which is vital knowledge for navigating climate change . Disabled communities have experience in creating support networks and adaptation strategies, which may be helpful in dealing with challenges created by climate change. Eriksen et al. adds that people with disabilities may be more apt to problem solve and embrace diversity; thus, the knowledge of people with disabilities may be helpful to foster resilience . These perspectives provide support for DICARP’s mission by reinforcing the need to centre disabled voices in the climate movement and recognize people with disabilities as knowers.
Expanding on the argument that people with disabilities bring valuable knowledge to the climate movement, Belser argues that insights from the disability justice movement, namely the ability to reconfigure how impairment is recognized, can be useful in the climate movement . In society, there is a tendency to make disability invisible; however, in many disabled communities, disability is embraced and claimed as an important part of a person's identity. Similar to disability, environmental damage is often made invisible by powerful institutions. Both disability activists and climate activists struggle with being overlooked by people who are unaffected by disability or climate change respectively , although both disability and climate change can affect anyone at any point in life. Belser draws multiple parallels between the disability and climate movements that highlight how disability and climate activists may benefit from working together, which provides support for DICARP’s methods of bringing together scholars and activists from both movements.
However, Besler also illuminates deeply ingrained cultural practices which hinder DICARP's work—namely the tendency for people to ignore disability and climate change if they are not directly affected by these issues . While DICARP's efforts may help the disabled community be more involved in the climate movement, there are many systemic challenges that face the disability justice movement, the climate movement, and the intersection between the two.
While the participation of people with disabilities in research and policy-making is a vital component of disability-inclusive climate action, it does not entail their full inclusion in society . Ableism continues to reproduce barriers and inequalities for people with disabilities in society at large . Lahsen explains that participation is only a component of combating oppression . Participation is necessary to understand the needs of people with disabilities, but it does not, alone, correct power imbalances and economic inequalities. While ending ableism may be beyond the scope of DICARP’s mission, ableism, namely eco-ableism, hinders the inclusion of people with disabilities in the climate movement, which is DICARP's goal. General stereotypes about people with disabilities being less capable may prevent them from being figured as knowers in the climate space. Without having knowledge or being socially recognized as having knowledge, participation in society is challenging .
Ultimately, there is support for the relevance of DICARP's mission and evidence that suggests their methods are appropriate in the context of their goal as a participatory organization. However, ableism is a persisting form of oppression that acts at systemic and individual levels. While DICARP's mission concerns the climate movement, this space cannot be separated from society as a whole; therefore, it is important to acknowledge the challenges associated with ableism that hinder the participation of people with disabilities in society at large, including the climate movement.
- Opinion piece
- March 2023
- Systemic analysis
- November 2022
- Status report (released jointly with the IDA)
- November 2022
- Advocacy paper (reviewed by Global Action on Disability (GLAD) and endorsed by the IDA)
- October 2021
- Peer-reviewed article
- June 2020
- Review of international frameworks and compilation of decisions adopted by governments to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (created by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), and Inclusiva; edited by Dr. Sébastien Jodoin)
- December 2019
- Podcast (one season: nine episodes)
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 Jodoin, S., Buettgen, A., Groce, N., Gurung, P., Kaiser, C., Kett, M., Keogh, M., Macanawai, S. S., Muñoz, Y., Powaseu, I., Stein, M. A., Stein, P. J. S., & Youssefian, E. (2023). Nothing about us without us: The urgent need for disability-inclusive climate research. PLOS Climate, 2(3), e0000153. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pclm.0000153
 McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. (2021, January). Knowers, makers, and doers of climate action: Conversation with Sébastien Jodoin (season 1, episode 1). Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://open.spotify.com/show/1oYQx6hg76oYekXEq41hbZ
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 Cram, E., Law, M. P., & Pezzullo, P. C. (2022). Cripping environmental communication: A review of eco-ableism, eco-normativity, and climate justice futurities. Environmental Communication-a Journal of Nature and Culture, 16(7), 851–863. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2022.2126869
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 Kett, M., Sriskanthan, G., & Cole, E. (2021). Disability and climate justice: A research project. Open Society Foundations. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/epidemiology-health-care/sites/epidemiology_health_care/files/disability_and_climate_justice_research_project_final_to_share.pdf
 Larrington-Spencer, H., Fenney, D., Middlemiss, L., & Kosanic, A. (2021). Disabled environmentalisms. In Diversity and Inclusion in Environmentalism (1st ed., pp. 15–33). Routledge. https://doi-org.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/10.4324/9781003099185
 Bell, S., Tabe, T., & Bell, S. (2019). Seeking a disability lens within climate change migration discourses, policies and practices. Disability & Society, 35(4), 682–687. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2019.1655856
 Kelly-Costello, A. (2022, March 4). The missing conversation about disabled leadership in climate justice. Stuff. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/pou-tiaki/127955661/the-missing-conversation-about-disabled-leadership-in-climate-justice?ref=disability-debrief
 Belser, J. W. (2020). Disability, climate change, and environmental violence: The politics of invisibility and the horizon of hope. Disability Studies Quarterly, 40(4). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v40i4.6959
 Eriksen, S., Grøndahl, R., & Sæbønes, A. (2021). On CRDPs and CRPD: Why the rights of people with disabilities are crucial for understanding climate-resilient development pathways. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), e929–e939. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00233-3
 Eriksen, S., Grøndahl, R., & Sæbønes, A. (2021). On CRDPs and CRPD: Why the rights of people with disabilities are crucial for understanding climate-resilient development pathways. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), e929–e939. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00233-3
 Lahsen, M. (2008). Knowledge, democracy, and uneven playing fields: Insights from climate politics in — and between — the us and Brazil. In Knowledge and Democracy (1st ed., pp. 163–181). Routledge. https://www-taylorfrancis-com.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780203787687-14/knowledge-democracy-uneven-playing-fields-insights-climate-politics-us-brazil-myanna-lahsen?context=ubx&refId=7a91ef27-5c0d-4a66-9a0a-20d1d2b8fc67
 Stehr, N. (2015). The knowledge of the weak. In Information, Power, and Democracy: Liberty is a Daughter of Knowledge. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316343159.009External Links
Image taken from DICARP's website.