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AIDERS to come to the aid of disabled people during natural disasters

Kerala underwent its darkest times in August this year during the floods. Heavy rains and floods took hundreds of lives and left lakhs of people homeless across the state. What the disaster also highlighted was the helplessness that people with disabilities face in particular.

To ensure they are not forgotten during such crises, a group of committed social workers have come together to form AIDERS, an organization that will reach out to disabled people during a disaster.

AIDERS was informally created in 2015 during the Chennai floods. This was after a disabled man called Prabhakaran's home was almost flooded.

Prabhakaran had to sit in dirty water for over two days. Help did reach him but much later and he went through hell. AIDERS wants to ensure something like this never happens again.

Lack of accessibility of shelters and poor awareness about the needs of disabled people is among the major problems during such disasters. Even expert rescuers are not trained on how to reach out to a disabled person. Most of the times, disabled people are left with no places to go after rescued.

Vaishnavi Jayakumar is one of the members of AIDERS. Vaishnavi says that their group is learning how to help disabled people during a crisis. They want to follow some of the methods used by the Kerala government during the floods.

Usually, disabled people are not given priority during rescue operations. Most of the times, they go unnoticed and are stuck inside their homes. But during Kerala floods, the government amazed me. They actually had plans on how to rescue and re-home disabled people! They had a clear focus on disaster management too. I want to look into how they did this and even want to learn from them. So many people came together and worked for rescues. The work was open and transparent. - Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Members, AIDERS.

AIDERS know that now is the time for action. Apart from managing disabled people during crisis, they want to highlight the needs of the disabled community.

"We are trying to reach out to more officials and people to make our work stronger. AIDERS aims to focus more on strengthening policies for disabled people. We have started this strictly from a disaster management point of view. But otherwise, we will be doing our bit for the disabled community", says Vaishnavi.

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