Disability legacy of the Haitian earthquake.

Haiti’s earthquake caused untold numbers of new disabilities across the age spectrum, from infants and children to elderly individuals. Amputations, spinal cord and brain injuries, complex multiple fractures, and other massive trauma will leave residual impairments, precipitating pressing needs at both the individual and societal levels. Short-term priorities include clinical stabilization, wound healing, and surgical revisions of suboptimal repairs. Afterward, in the near term, comprehensive rehabilitation must commence to ensure the best possible functional outcomes. Even before the earthquake struck, Haiti had few rehabilitation professionals and little capacity to manufacture essential assistive technologies, including prostheses and wheelchairs. While international organizations are assisting to fill these gaps, ultimately rehabilitation programs and assistive technologies will need to fit the specific demands of Haiti’s culture and rugged natural physical environment. As Haiti rebuilds its public and private spaces, ensuring accessibility to persons with disabilities will be critical. Ultimately, one positive legacy of Haiti’s earthquake could be the emergence of social attitudes, public policies, and physical environments that more fully accommodate disability across the life span.