Canada to Key WestCanada to Key West, a 2,350-mile walk to raise awareness about the impact of increasingly frequent extreme weather events on persons with physical and cognitive disabilities, will kick off on June 21, 2019, the day of the summer solstice.

The campaign, which is co-sponsored by the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP), will raise funds to benefit United Spinal Association and bring greater resources and support to people with disabilities that are affected by extreme weather events.

An estimated one in five people lives with a disability today. These individuals are more vulnerable during extreme weather events and their aftermath. It can be difficult to impossible for someone with a disability to evacuate during a disaster.

Canada to Key West co-founders, Drs. Marcalee and Craig Alexander, will walk the 2,350-mile route to rehabilitation hospitals along the way in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Richmond and Charleston to engage with academic partners about the need for more effective mechanisms and planning to help people with disabilities during extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, polar vortices and heat waves.

Canada to Key West “I find it terrible that you can find hundreds of pictures of pets being rescued in floods or hurricanes, but you never see the person in the wheelchair, because often, they are not saved,” says Marcalee Alexander, MD.

“Moreover, polar bears are considered the symbol of climate change, and we don’t acknowledge that people with disabilities are being affected now. I want to find the unsung heroes with disabilities that have faced extreme weather disasters, so they can tell their stories,” adds Alexander.

The Canada to Key West walk will begin on historic Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, where former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a summer home. Pres. Roosevelt contracted polio as a young man and spent the remainder of his life with paralysis; he was a strong advocate for rehabilitation research. The walk will continue through major cities on the East Coast, ending in Key West, Florida.

Along the walk, participants would like to bring together government, academic and community members together to discuss communications and response plans to aid people with and without disabilities during extreme weather events.

The goal is to forge new partnerships between consumers with and without disabilities, academicians and clinicians that care for persons with disabilities to address how extreme weather is impacting people now and what we need to do in order to decrease further mishaps.

In addition, local community members are asked to join the quest, walk or roll in conjunction with participants, mayors’ offices on disabilities, and community groups.

The mission of Canada to Key West was recently highlighted in a session on climate change and its potential impact on people with disabilities at the AAP Annual Meeting in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was devasted by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and thousands of citizens were left without power, clean water, medical supplies and access to medical services for months. Puerto Ricans with disabilities were the most vulnerable of all during the disaster and its aftermath.

For more information on supporting or participating in the Canada to Keywest walk, visit www.canadatokeywest.org. You can also follow developments on the campaign’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.