Kayla Maria RollandBy Kayla Maria Rolland

This summer, I enjoyed working with the Disability Inclusive Climate Action Program (DICARP), a new initiative and partnership between the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and the Environment and the McGill Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism.

I spent the summer learning more about issues in climate justice, disability rights, and how these issues intersect. For example, persons with disabilities are more affected by climate change as a result of social, economic, and institutional barriers. Women, children, and minorities with disabilities are particularly impacted. The impacts of climate change on food systems may create food shortages that affect the right to food for persons with disabilities. Issues such as inaccessible transportation may impact the right to housing for persons with disabilities. The right to health for persons with disabilities may be impacted when essential healthcare services are disrupted by climate change. Climate change may also have significant impacts on access to water and employment for persons with disabilities. (1)

In response, those working in the spaces of climate justice and disability rights have argued that states hold legal obligations to protect disability rights in regards to climate change, as a result of instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (2)

DICARP will involve a series of research projects and mobilization activities over the coming years related to this topic. Part of my role with DICARP was researching different activists, legal practitioners, and scholars working at the intersection of climate justice and disability rights from around the world to bring a diverse range of perspectives and experiences to the table. It was interesting to learn about the work currently being done, as well as opportunities to grow awareness. From the perspective of a human rights intern, this was also another opportunity to see the different paths that an interest in human rights may take you.

Another part of my role was helping to prepare for the program’s webinars that will take place this Fall. This included researching best practices for accessible webinars and web content. I learned a tremendous amount, and this was one of the most rewarding parts of my internship as these are skills that I will carry with me going forward, both professionally and personally.

I feel very lucky to have been involved with this partnership in its early stages. One of the benefits of having completed a human rights internship here at McGill is that I get to watch what the program will accomplish in the coming years.


(1) For more information, see the recent report “The impact of climate change on the rights of persons with disabilities by the UN OHCHR here: https://ohchr.org/EN/Issues/HRAndClimateChange/Pages/PersonsWithDisabilities.aspx

(2) For further information, see the report “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Inclusiva, and the Center for International Environmental Law here: https://www.ciel.org/reports/the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-in-the-context-of-the-un-framework-convention-on-climate-change-dec-2019/