top of page

How FDA Builds Capacities of People with Disabilities to Stay Safe During Natural Disasters

Foundation for Development Action

Daniel has a hearing impairment and communicates through sign language. Daniel found himself in a dire situation when floods hit the south Indian state of Kerala in 2018. When the flood waters reached his doorstep, he needed support from the rescue workers to get to the relief.  The rescue workers were clueless about how to communicate with him through sign language, and thus didn’t understand what he needed at the time. 


Once he reached the relief camp, he felt that his situation worsened in some ways. There was a lack of food and space in the camp and he found it difficult to communicate his circumstances to those in charge. He also fell ill at this point but did not know how he could take himself to the hospital for medical attention. With no sign language interpreter in the camp, he found it next to impossible to communicate with other hearing people. 


After the floods ended, Daniel got back from the camp to his own house. This is when he learned about a training program being conducted by an organisation called Foundation for Development Action (FDA). FDA had developed a module to train first responders to rescue people with disabilities, keeping their unique needs and situations in mind. The training focuses on building rescuers' skills so that they can adequately and sensitively respond to people with disabilities. A key component of this effort was to train rescue workers in sign language. As part of this programme, FDA also worked with local panchayats and communities and trained them on using sign language to communicate with people who have a hearing impairment. FDA also trained people with disabilities on survival skills during the time of disasters.


Daniel participated in the training workshop where he learnt how to fend for himself during a natural disaster. He also learnt how he can help others in such times through CPR or by guiding them to find a safer shelter. 


Daniel had harboured a fear about his house flooding again but after the training, he feels that he has adequate knowledge and skills that he could put into use if that were to happen again. In the future, if he has to go to a relief camp, he feels he understands the process better. Other hearing people in his community also are more aware of sign language and he feels this aspect will make things much easier for him and others like him who also have a hearing impairment.

“ When disasters happen, we are unable to help ourselves as much as we want to. This is because most people are unaware of sign language and they cannot communicate with us. With better knowledge and skills, we can all do better in such times ”

Varghese Daniel from Alappuzha district in Kerala.

bottom of page