December 3, 2014 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The goal of this observance is to foster understanding of disability issues and encourage support for disability rights as well as dignity and inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of life. Worldwide, there are 1 billion people with disabilities. The disadvantages they face—limited access to health care, education and employment opportunities; exclusion in everyday life activities; poverty and mistreatment—are well-documented. Family and friends are also affected, effectively increasing the impact of disability. How can disability discrimination be recognized as anything other than a human rights issue?
Yet, the U.S. Congress has declined to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), also known as the Disability Treaty, signed in 2009. The CRPD is the first international treaty to address disability rights and endorse self-determination of people with disabilities. It is based on the values of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To date, 151 other countries have ratified the CRPD. A broad coalition of almost 600 U.S. disability, civil rights, faith, business and veteran organizations support the U.S. ratification of the CRPD. According to the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), benefits of ratification to the U.S. include:
- The U.S. will assume a leadership role in developing disability rights around the world without changing existing U.S. laws or adding to the budget.
- 5.5 million American veterans with disabilities will have greater opportunities to work, study and travel abroad.
- Businesses with accessible products will gain a bigger market for their products.
- American travelers with disabilities will experience fewer accessibility barriers abroad.
- The U.S. will have an opportunity to model inclusive practices and help eliminate institutionalization.
A few CRPD opponents have perpetuated misconceptions about provisions in the treaty, contributing to a slim vote shortfall in the Senate in 2012. These misconceptions have been refuted. The National Council on Disability (NCD) provides an excellent rebuttal clarifying that the CRPD does NOT: 1) change U.S. law or require the U.S. to relinquish any authority; 2) promote abortion; 3) limit parental rights or the right to homeschool; or 4) mandate how the U.S. should allocate its foreign assistance spending. (http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2014/07142014/). Still, another Senate vote was blocked this fall.
We at New Editions believe in respect, equality, autonomy, inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities around the world. We can make a significant contribution and celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by showing support for the CRPD. With the change in control of Congress after the election and the upcoming retirement of disability champion, Senator Tom Harkin, the final days of this Congress may be the best chance for ratification of the Disability Treaty. Still, the latest news suggests that the Treaty won’t even make it to the floor for a vote. To help tip the scales, we have asked our employees to pledge their support for the ratification of the CRPD in the U.S.
Now is the time to speak up for the rights of the world’s largest minority. Join us and contact Majority Leader Harry Reid and/or your own state Senators to voice your support for the CRPD and urge a floor vote. Here’s how: