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24th Anniversary of ADA and the CRPD

This week marks the 24th anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act . My good friend Candace Cable, who writes a blog for the Christopher Reeve Foundation recently pointed out that while Senator Tom Harkin calls the ADA “a modern-day Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities,” there is much work ahead to make this country accessible, and to include people with disabilities in the full fabric of American life.

Says Candace, “We have not found full inclusion yet, not by a long shot.”

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Candace Cable

As reported here in my last blog, I recently attended a major international meeting in New York City to advocate for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, aka the CRPD or the just Disability Treaty. Candace was there too, helping make the point that while the U.S. already has the most progressive disability legislation in any country, it is important that our leaders ratify this treaty.

More than 600 U.S. disability, civil rights, faith, business, and veteran organizations support ratification of the CRPD; this is critical to maintaining our leadership role and to eliminating disability discrimination throughout the world -- without having to change any U.S. laws or add additional costs to its budget.

Despite what critics say, the CRPD will not water down U.S. sovereignty nor will it create lawsuits or any new layer of regulation. What ratification will do is affirm America’s leadership in disability rights and validate progress we have made toward full inclusion. Here’s more information if you want to learn more about the treaty.

This is a critical time for the CRPD.

Your senators, who have previously rejected the treaty are voting this week. If you could, please take a moment to let your representatives know that you support the treaty. Go here and click on Take Action. This will direct you to a form that connects to your own Senators.

Why is this important? While in New York I was accompanied by Risna Utami, an international champion of disability rights and the ranking representative from Indonesia regarding the CRPD. She is a passionate advocate, who had this to say, reminding us why CRPD means so much to the developing world:

"There are an estimated one billion persons with disabilities living across the globe—80 per cent of whom live in developing countries. Persons with disabilities are over-represented among those living in absolute poverty ... and remain the most marginalized group today.

Persons with disabilities face numerous barriers to equality, which include physical, institutional, and communication barriers, and often face social stigma and lack of inclusion. Persons with disabilities have poorer health, lower educational attainment, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty and inequality than people without disabilities. Due to these barriers, persons with disabilities often lack equal opportunities to participate in society or influence decision-making that directly affects them.

The empowerment of persons with disabilities is the key to achieve equality and therefore must remain firmly committed to combat inequalities.

The empowerment of persons with disabilities and in particular women and children with disabilities is vital in order to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all."

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Risna Utami