The Arctic is currently experiencing massive transformation. The very real and immediate impacts of climate change, a rapid increase in industrial activity, and a growing influx of southern and foreign workers to previously isolated communities and regions are all contributing to an increased risk of natural and human-made disasters. Blizzards, fires, floods, power and infrastructure failures, food shortages, oil spills and epidemics, all represent real, immediate and serious threats to Northern communities.
While the potential of catastrophic events poses a danger to all members of Arctic society, it is persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups who are at greatest risk. Limited access to medical services, accessible transportation, geographic isolation, issues related to housing and the extreme weather conditions characteristic of the Arctic climate are all obstacles to the active engagement, inclusion, and safety of persons living with disabilities in the far North.
The objective of On Thin Ice is to protect lives and improve the security, well-being, and inclusion of persons with disabilities (physical, cognitive and sensory) and other vulnerable populations in the Arctic. More specifically, this project seeks to:
- Foster inclusion of and active living among persons with disabilities;
- Encourage regulatory compliance with relevant legislation, conventions, codes, and emergency protocols that protect the rights and safety of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups;
- Adapt international best practices in emergency management and disaster relief for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups to the unique geographical, cultural, and climatic situation of the far North;
- Increase public awareness and access to information on creating accessible environments, disability inclusive emergency preparedness strategies;
- Develop effective, as well as culturally- and linguistically-appropriate communication tools;
- Enhance emergency preparedness through disability inclusive emergency management exercise workshops and simulations;
- Improve the capacity of persons with disabilities to sustain their own lives and well-being in an emergency until help arrives;
- Initiate a participatory program for disability inclusive emergency management in Northern schools.
The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) is the leading international not-for-profit organization that brings together individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting accessibility of the built and virtual environments. GAATES was incorporated in Canada in 2007 by an international consortium dedicated to promoting accessibility worldwide.
GAATES’ mission is to promote the understanding and implementation of accessibility of the sustainable built, social and virtual environments, including architectural, infrastructural design, transportation systems, emergency preparedness protocols, habitat, and electronic information and communication technologies so that everyone, including people with disabilities and older persons are able to fully participate and contribute to society.