Webinar: Climate Change and Disability

Click here for a full transcript of the webinar.

Adverse effects of climate change disproportionately impact the global population of people with disabilities. Too often environmental initiatives fail to take disability into account, perpetuating inequity and discrimination. And yet, people with disabilities are at the forefront of developing innovative solutions for adapting to and slowing climate change. In order to meaningfully respond to and combat our changing climate, philanthropy must include disabled people in their efforts to better understand and fund solutions. Join John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation President and CEO John Palfrey in conversation with disability and climate justice activists Daphne Frias, Valerie Novack, and Dr. Yolanda Muñoz to learn about the connections between disability and climate change and to explore philanthropy’s role in supporting meaningful community-based solutions.

This free webinar was the fourth of a four-part series focusing on the connections between disability and key social justice issues, made possible by the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy.

About the Panelists

A smiling white man with short brown hair, wearing a light blue collared shirt, standing in front of a book case.

Moderator: John Palfrey, President and CEO of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and member of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy

John Palfrey is President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies with assets of approximately $7 billion, and offices in Chicago, Mexico City, New Delhi, and Abuja, Nigeria. Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions.

Headshot of Daphne Frias.

Panelist: Daphne Frias

Daphne Frias is a 23-year-old youth activist. She is unapologetically Latina. Daphne has Cerebral Palsy,
and uses a wheelchair to ambulate. She is fiercely proud to be a loud champion for the disabled
community. She got her start shortly after the Parkland shooting by busing 100+ students from her college campus to the nearest March For Our Lives (MFOL) event. In July of 2019, she was appointed as the NY State Director for March For Our Lives, and completed her one year tenure there in June of 2020. Through her work with MFOL, she became passionate about increasing youth voter turnout amongst 18-29 year-olds. As a result, she created her own non-profit called Box The Ballot (BTB), which aims to harness the power of absentee ballots. By partnering with students on college campuses, BTB was able to collect nearly 470,000 absentee ballots in the 2018 midterms. Fighting the climate crisis is something she is equally as passionate about. Born and raised in West Harlem, NYC, she has seen how minority communities are disproportionately affected by climate change. Having been an official spokesperson from the global climate strikes on September 20th, she has no intention of backing down until the health of our earth is secure. Her passion for advocacy, propelled her to run from county committee women of Assembly District 70, Election District 80 in West Harlem. In June of 2019, Daphne won her election and continues to work hard to represent her constituents. In the spring of 2019, she was appointed as one of the North American Regional Focal Points for Sustainable Development Goal 16 at the U.N. Major Group for Children and Youth. In this position, she works to highlight and represent the voice of her fellow youth and the work they are doing to become pivotal peacemakers. Currently, she continues to stay passionate about creating change, as a freelance organizer. She spends her time speaking at various colleges, summits, and panels. In addition, she consults with non-profits, crafting engaging campaigns highlighting the voices of Gen-Z.

Headshot of Valerie Novack, a Biracial person with curly black hair is smiling for the camera. She has black-rimmed glasses and is wearing a blue, flowered romper. She is seated in a coffee shop, backs of patrons visible behind her.

Panelist: Valerie Novack

Valerie Novack (she/her) is a disability policy researcher focusing on inclusive infrastructure and emergency management practices. She focuses on integrating the expertise of lived experience and grassroots efforts of marginalized peoples into policymaking at the local, state, and federal levels. Valerie started in a Center for Independent Living before becoming a 2019 Portlight Fellow focusing on legislative solutions to inaccessible emergency response practices in the United States and the founding Board Chair of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies. She has partnered on legislative and community advocacy efforts with organizations such as the Center for American Progress, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and the National Disability Rights Network. Novack has a bachelor’s degree in disability studies and urban planning from the University of Toledo and a master’s degree in disaster preparedness and emergency management from Arkansas State University. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Utah State University.

Headshot of Dr. Yolanda Muñoz, a white, middle-aged woman with long brown hair. She wears glasses and is smiling to the camera. She's outdoors in a sunny day.

Panelist: Dr. Yolanda Muñoz

Dr. Yolanda Muñoz is the coordinator of the outreach and policy advocacy activities of the Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Program. She is a Senior Research Associate with the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and the Environment and contributes to its research and policy activities on the intersections of disability and environmental justice. She has more than 25 years of experience advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Mexico, Quebec and at the international level. She has worked as consultant in inclusive development for the Inter-American Development Bank, and served for four years as Program Officer at the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, which promote the implementation of the UNCRPD in more than 26 countries. Recently, she has worked as an external consultant for Global Greengrants Fund to advance anti-ableist practices in their climate justice grant making activities.