Disability & Heat: Physiological and Social Disparities Related to Heat Exposure

Awarded Undergraduate Research Fellows Program + Summer Extension Grant (2022)

Disabled people make up approximately a quarter of the United States population, yet this population is often underrepresented in the scholarly literature on heat and climate change. Furthermore, while this scholarship tends to focus on the disabling effects of the heat, not much is known about how heat affects disabled people differently than able-bodied people.

With heat continuing to be the leading cause of weather-related fatalities and rising temperatures related to climate change, it is imperative that scholarship on heat grows to involve and include the disability community. Through a contextual literature review, it was found that many suffering from heat-related illnesses also had other comorbidities and other euphemistic terms relating to disability.

Thus, this research synthesizes the myriad of ways in which disabled people are uniquely influenced by the heat both through a physiological and social context. This archival research is supplemented by the oral histories of disabled individuals and advocates. Evidence gathered argues for necessary and overdue addendums to standard heat protective guidelines in order to better support the disability community.

This project was completed by Desiree Eshraghi.