Advancing disability rights and leadership globally®

The Power of Film to Promote Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction


People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by disasters primarily due to lack of adequate community preparedness and inaccessible emergency relief efforts. Disability-led strategies are needed to accelerate solutions toward inclusive emergency response.


People with disabilities should not only be treated as a vulnerable population in disasters, but also need to be considered essential leaders and decision makers in all risk reduction efforts. Alumna of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), Jenny Chinchilla from El Salvador, is paving the way with her new award-winning documentary, Derribando Barreras, Reduciendo Riesgos [Breaking Down Barriers, Reducing Risks]. The five-minute film has become a catalyst for calling the global community to action.

After surviving a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, Jenny Chinchilla, a wheelchair rider, knew the challenges people with disabilities face in a disaster. She felt compelled to do something so that her community would be better prepared and people with disabilities less vulnerable in future disasters.


The opportunity to produce a film came as part of a community cinema course at Ecc Acisam Community Film School supported by a German nonprofit organization, Arbeiter Samariter Bund Deutshland (ASB). Jenny produced her documentary alongside other participatory community videos to promote a multi-cultural approach to strengthen inclusion in disaster risk reduction.

Derribando Barreras, Reduciendo Riesgos details Jenny’s experience surviving a 2001 earthquake while studying English in the city of San Salvador. As a well-respected disability rights leader, Jenny also shares specific strategies and solutions for inclusive disaster risk management.

Jenny Chinchilla holds a clapperboard during filming of the documentary. Two men are standing in front of her setting up a tri-pod.


“Our communities and municipalities need to include our thoughts in their risk management plans and share these experiences so that, like me, there are other survivors and no tragedies for not having accessible evacuation options.”

– Jenny Chinchilla

A few other key strategies Jenny highlights in the video included:

  • Empower people with disabilities to know their rights to access emergency relief efforts and to be included in disaster risk management planning.
  • Ensure emergency responders know how to support people with different types of disabilities in an evacuation (e.g. a person with a physical disability may need to be rescued along with their assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, walkers).
  • Build back accessible during the recovery and reconstruction phase.
Still shot from the video of Jenny meeting with colleagues. A sign language interpreter appears in the bottom right corner.


After her documentary was awarded 1st place in the Central American region by Ecc Acisam, Jenny was invited to present the film at the United Nations VIII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean (UNDRR). The 3-day Regional Platform, held in Uruguay in 2023, is an opportunity for governments, private sector, civil society, donors, and other relevant stakeholders in the Americas and the Caribbean, to exchange experiences and facilitate decisions on the Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the implementation of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Jenny presented her film on the “Ignite Stage” as part of a panel discussion on Disasters and Disability: The power of participatory videos to reduce risks. Through powerful video story-telling, Jenny was able to bring her unique experience to this high-level event, where she called upon States parties to the Sendai Framework to ensure disability inclusion in risk and disaster management. Including disability-led solutions and perspectives at such important international events will continue to accelerate change toward inclusive emergency preparedness and response.

Jenny sits in her wheelchair holding a certificate of first place award for her documentary. In front of her is a camera tripod in a box. A man stands to Jenny's left with his hand on her shoulder. To Jenny's right is a sign displaying funders of the project and project title in Spanish.
Jenny receiving the 1st place award certificate for her documentary.
Author: Susan D

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