PT Faculty Member Works with NYC Mayor’s Office to Spread Awareness of Impact of Climate Change on People with Disabilities

September 30, 2019

As a result of climate change, extreme weather events including hurricanes, severe rainstorms, and heat waves are becoming more frequent and more severe. It is critical that emergency preparedness efforts account for everyone’s needs, including the estimated one billion people worldwide who live with self-disclosed disabilities.

On August 17th, The New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), NYC Emergency Management, disability advocates, elected officials, and allies walked and rolled alongside Canada to Key West supporters from the High Line to the Oculus at the World Trade Center in New York City. Their mission: to highlight the effects of climate change on people with disabilities.

Victor Calise, Commissioner of the MOPD, said, “As society continues to respond to the weather events and other emergencies caused by climate change, we must include the needs of people with disabilities.  MOPD is proud to march and roll to raise awareness about climate change’s impact on the disability community.”

MOPD has partnered with Canada to Key West and its founders, Drs. Marcalee and Craig Alexander, to raise awareness of climate change and its impacts on the disability community. Along the 2,500 mile journey that began on June 21st, the doctors engaged with people with disabilities and academic partners about the need for more effective mechanisms and planning in emergencies that include the disability community.

Dr. Martha Sliwinski lecturing

Martha Sliwinski, PT, PhD

Among the project’s academic partners is Programs in Physical Therapy faculty member Dr. Martha Sliwinski. Dr. Sliwinski worked closely with Victor Calise’s team in the MOPD to help make the event happen. Dr. Sliwinski also joined Drs. Marcalee and Craig Alexander on Sunday, August 25th as they walked for 10 miles down the Seaside boardwalk and through Toms River, New Jersey.

Dr. Sliwinski commented, “It isn’t until a disaster strikes that so many realize how unprepared we truly are. Now is the time for us to raise this issue to the forefront.”  


DPT students under a tree with sign

Columbia DPT students walk from Columbus Circle to the United Nations in solidarity with the Canada to Key West walk in Washington, DC on Sunday, September 22.

On September 22nd, Columbia DPT students participated in “The Day for Tomorrow,” a walk from Columbus Circle to the United Nations in support of the Canada to Key West walk in Washington, DC.  One of the participating students, Iris Platt, Class of 2021, said, “Raising awareness of the impact of natural disasters on individuals with disabilities is directly relevant to our future profession and it is vital that we use our voices to advocate for those we care for.”

To learn more about these efforts, visit Canada to Key West’s website.