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Bringing Disabled people into the heart of positive climate action


Bristol Disability Equality Forum are developing a repair hub for their three-year National Lottery fundedEmma Geen community climate action demonstrator project as well as supporting Disabled people with their energy needs. Learn more from their climate lead Emma Geen.

A hard winter is ahead for Disabled people. Scope has found that 91% Disabled people say they are worried about their energy bills and 45% are not planning on using heating, even when it gets cold. The fuel crisis even means that some Disabled people are being forced to stop using essential mobility aids. This burden comes on top of the average £550 a month disability expenditure many Disabled people have to pay for outgoings such as energy and mobility aids.

solar panelsSo, our community climate action project comes at a vital moment. We are excited to welcome our new energy champion Lisa Warrington to the team. Lisa will be enabling Disabled people to benefit from all aspects of sustainable energy. She will carry out basic retrofits on the houses of Disabled people, stopping them from losing heat so that they can stay cosy this winter. By enabling Disabled people to hear about sustainable energy schemes and do the paperwork, she will ensure they can benefit from items often reserved for more advantaged people, such as solar panels and heat pumps. And she will work with energy researchers to support them to design their projects to meet the needs of Disabled people.

A new repair hub for mobility equipment

We will also be using our part of the Lottery grant to create a social enterprise that will take mobility aids out of the waste stream and refurbish them. Many councils currently say that scrapping mobility aids when a person no longer needs them is cheaper than reclaiming them for use. This means that from April 2017-2018 in the West of England, around £17.5 million was spent on mobility equipment, and of the 430,000 mobility aids that were loaned out only 270,000 items were returned. A huge amount of unnecessary waste is going into landfill, including toxic items such as batteries. Currently, much essential equipment isn’t provided on the NHS, meaning that many of the Disabled people we work with can be left with aids they need for their independence for months and even decades. By taking mobility aids out of the waste stream and putting them into the hands of those who need them most, we reduce waste and support Disabled people.

The Repair Hub will also train Disabled people on how to repair their own equipment and host a Library of Things that allows Disabled people to borrow out mobility equipment temporarily.

Once the social enterprise is established, we will be welcoming donations of mobility equipment and donations towards the costs of materials used in the retrofits. There will also be volunteer roles for Disabled people to help with the work.

Bringing Disabled people into the heart of positive climate action

Our world-first projects are only more important in the context of the report released by McGill University and Bristol Disability Equality Forum nature outingInternational Disability Alliance this summer, which found Disabled people are “systematically ignored” in climate change policies and plans. Our project is a model for showing how other cities across the world can and should be bringing Disabled people into the heart of positive climate action. It’s time that climate action improved the lives of Disabled people instead of creating new barriers.


You can get in touch at

If you know of a Disabled person interested in accessing sustainable energy or basic retrofits to keep heat in email

Emma Geen is a Disabled person and the Bristol Disability Equality Forum’s climate lead. For her other work, she is a researcher on storytelling for climate justice at the University of Bristol and teaches on the Creative Writing MA.


Watch this 40 second video to hear why Emma thinks community-led climate action is important, and what she is most excited about phase 2 of the Community Climate Action Project.


Energy, Resources, Community-led climate action
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