Through detailed accounts from individuals, a new qualitative study from the University of Texas at El Paso highlights some of the unique challenges Texans with disabilities faced when Winter Storm Uri devastated Texas in 2021. Common themes that emerge from the first-hand accounts include how unprepared the state was to protect some of its most vulnerable citizens, as well as shortcomings related to infrastructure.
For the study – Texans With Disabilities During Winter Storm Uri – 47 people with disabilities and six parents of people with disabilities were interviewed about their experience during and after the winter storm. Study participants detailed how the winter storm created barriers to access that put them in life-threatening situations and made the conditions of their disabilities worse.
Many study participants had prolonged power outages, which limited their access to critical durable medical equipment, like power wheelchairs and ventilators, and also put certain medications at risk. Extremely cold temperatures inside the house intensified the pain some people already experienced due to their disability; cold temperatures outside limited where people could go, especially without access to the transportation they typically relied on.
COVID-19 also played a role in the winter storm, as some people chose to stay in their freezing home instead of going to a place with heat and electricity that also had a lot of people. Due to their disability, some study participants were at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and chose not to relocate to a warming center or a friend’s house, for fear of contracting the virus.
In addition to enduring and surviving the winter storm, many study participants now report experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder because of the event.
The Texans With Disabilities During Winter Storm Uri study was authored by Angela Frederick from the University of Texas at El Paso.